What is dementia?
Dementia affects cells in the brain; their functioning worsens with time and they eventually die. This exacerbates problems related to memory, ability to stick to an agenda, sense of time (telling time) and ability to recognise people and surroundings. You officially have a form of dementia if you suffer from a number of symptoms:
- You must have memory problems.
- Your brain has trouble processing information (cognitive impairment) on one or more of the following:
- You will have trouble understanding or producing speech (aphasia).
- Although there is nothing wrong with your muscles or nerves, you will have more difficulty performing particular purposive actions (apraxia).
- It takes more effort to recognise objects (agnosia).
- You have more and more trouble planning, organising or thinking logically.
All these symptoms make it more difficult for you to function normally or to deal normally with work, family or friends. The afore-mentioned symptoms must be permanent and not only occur during a period of acute confusion, for instance. Many disorders fall under dementia, the most common being:
- Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed in 70% of dementia cases in the Netherlands.
- Vascular dementia. Vascular dementia accounts for 20% of dementia cases in the Netherlands.
Other forms of dementia include:
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Lewy Body dementia
- Parkinson's dementia
About one in five people develop some form of dementia. How dementia manifests depends on the disorder and varies from person to person. The older you get, the greater the chance of dementia. By the age of 90 and over, you have a 40% chance of dementia.
What causes dementia?
The cause of most forms of dementia remains unknown. Recent research shows that protein accumulations in the brain appear to have something to do with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's dementia and frontotemporal dementia. Those protein accumulations had already been established for Lewy body dementia. Vascular dementia is caused by poor circulation in the brain. You have a greater chance of suffering dementia if some form of dementia also occurs in the immediate family.
Symptoms related to dementia
The symptoms related to dementia and their severity vary from one person to the next. They also depend on what form of dementia you have. General characteristics of dementia are:
- Memory problems
- Gloom, depression
- Behavioural and personality changes
- Reduced sense of time
- Trouble communicating or finding words
- Trouble planning or thinking logically
The symptoms increase the longer you have dementia. During the course of the disease, your physical condition will deteriorate. You will become increasingly dependent on help, eventually having to rely on others for all the care you need.
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