For many years, Alzheimer’s did not give symptoms because the brain has a certain capacity to compensate for the alterations. However, there comes a time when the brain can no longer “hide” it, and that is when the signs of cognitive impairment begin to appear, usually with memory problems, which will end in dementia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a set of signs and symptoms produced by a brain disorder that causes the loss of cognitive abilities of the affected person. Usually, alterations in mood and behavior prevent the person from independently carrying out their daily activities. Therefore, it entails a loss of autonomy and the consequent dependence on third parties.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s comes with brain alterations and is the leading cause of dementia. However, it is not the only reason. The second most common cause has to do with cerebral vascular alterations, cerebral blood circulation, leading to another type of dementia known as vascular dementia.
Other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Lewy body disease, or metabolic disorders, such as those caused by chronic alcoholism, even other types of diseases, can also be the cause of dementia. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people over age 65 have some form of dementia and approximately 75% of cases are due to Alzheimer’s disease.
Are All Dementia Incidents The Same?
Although all dementia is characterized by the alteration of cognitive functions and behavior, causing loss of autonomy, depending on the cause and the affected brain areas, one or the other symptoms will predominate and the evolution will be different. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, normally, the first cognitive difficulties are reflected in the loss of memory for recent events, but, progressively, will be added, among others, problems with language, orientation, reasoning, or visual recognition.
Behavior and mood problems will also appear. All this will increase the loss of autonomy since it is an irreversible process. For this reason, the patient always ends up requiring continuous care that usually falls on a relative, who is called the main caregiver.
The Aging Phenomenon
“Grandpa has senile dementia” is a phrase that you have probably heard many times. Aging indeed has a certain impact on some cognitive functions, it may be more difficult to retrieve some information from memory, taking more time to do some things, or showing less flexibility, making it more difficult to adapt to depending on the changes. However, aging is not a cause of dementia.
There are many people who reach very old ages with their cognitive abilities almost intact. Senile dementia, as such, does not exist. It is a term that used to be frequently used when there was not as much knowledge about the different types of dementia and their causes, in addition to the fact that most dementias appear in advanced ages. Knowing today that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia; likely, many of the cases that were wrongly attributed to “senile dementia” were Alzheimer’s dementia.
When a person has dementia, whatever their age, it is because something is causing it, but it is not a consequence of aging. It is very important to be alert to the appearance of warning signs that may suggest dementia or any form of cognitive impairment and see a doctor so that its origin, its scope can be determined and the most appropriate treatment can be provided.