For years, dementia has been a term that represents an ailment of the elderly. The ailments most notable symptom is memory loss as well as reduced cognitive abilities. However, as improvements have been made in medical science, it has become evident that dementia is but a general term that describes a variety of mental ailments. The manuscript presented provides an in-depth analysis of dementia in its different forms thus showing how it can be dealt with medically.
As the human body grows older, it tends to be more susceptible to disease. One of the most pronounced ailments that are linked to old age is Dementia, a mental disorder that primarily affects a person’s cognitive as well as intellectual abilities. Traditionally, dementia was thought to be a typical part of aging. However, with the advent of molecular biology as well as medical genetics its underlying causes became clear. Nevertheless, as indicated by Luengo-Fernandez, Leal, and Gray (2010), as more information about dementia is revealed the term has grown to describe a wide range of symptoms with the most pronounced being memory loss and a decrease in cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and recognized type of dementia; however, other forms of dementia include vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). In an age of medical breakthroughs, it is unfortunate to state that to this date the exact underlying cause of dementia is yet to be comprehensively understood from the mechanistic point of view. It is the purpose of this manuscript to offer a broader view of dementia in its different forms thus chattering a roadmap towards the successful comprehension of how to deal with the ailment.
As aforementioned dementia is a term that is used to describe the declining conditions of an individuals mental as well as cognitive abilities thus influencing language, emotional control, comprehension, social skill as well as intellect. According to the World Health Organization, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, followed by vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia and lastly frontotemporal dementia (Abbott, 2011). All forms of dementia are caused by damage of the brain cells. The brain has a variety of distinct regions, each in charge of a specific function, for instance, motor skills, memory, and interpretation. When cells in a distinct region are impaired, the compromised part fails to function as prescribed and subsequently an individual begins to highlight aspects of cerebrum damage.
Each type of dementia mentioned above is associated with a specific type of brain cell damage in particular sectors of the brain. For instance, individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are found to have high levels of particular proteins in or out of brain cells that make up the hippocampus (Hardy & Higgins, 1992). This region of the brain that stores memories and is the center of learning thus making memory loss the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s. In order to have a deeper understanding of the causes of dementia, it is necessary to analyze them specifically.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia. According to Alzheimer’s Association (2017), Alzheimer’s in itself or with other forms of pathology also referred to as mixed dementia is responsible for about 74% of all cases of dementia reported in the United States and the UK over the last decade. German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer first described the disease over a decade ago. When analyzing patients with Alzheimer’s disease, it is evident that there exists abnormal deposition of insoluble ‘plates’ of a fibrous protein identified as amyloid as well as twisted fibers known as ‘neurofibrillary tangles’ inside or outside the brain cells that make up the hippocampus (Alzheimer’s Association. (2012). These abnormalities interfere with the normal functions of the brain cells causing a deficiency of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, which is vital for memory storage and learning.
Clinical features. In its earliest stage patients suffering from AD are known to have memory loss particularly in regards to recent events and have a hard time finding the right words to express themselves (Abbott, 2011). Over time, these symptoms become more pronounced thus causing additional difficulties in day-to-day activities such as navigating routes to familiar destinations. Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are also known to highlight heightened anxiety, depression, in addition showing signs of demotivation (Alzheimer’s Association 2012). All these symptoms tend to worsen over time as the disease progresses finally leading to incapacitation.
After Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is known as the second most prevalent type of dementia. As indicated by T O’Brien and Thomas (2015), vascular dementia is caused by a reduced blood flow to the brain that is caused by arterial diseases. The lack of proper supply of oxygen to the brain reduces the neuronal function eventually causing damage and eventual death of brain cells. As indicated by Venkat, Chopp, and Chen (2015), medical conditions such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, as well as social issues that include smoking are primary causes of vascular dementia as well as cerebral deposition of compounds derived from the hormone amylin.
Clinical features. Vascular dementia is more likely to be a manifestation on the location of the pathology. Other than memory loss and issues of speech or language similar to Alzheimer’s disease, individuals suffering from Vascular dementia are known to highlight depression, anxiety, and apathy, in addition to exhibiting a slow thinking process (T O’Brien & Thomas (2015). Traditionally, when identified during its early stages, known as vascular cognitive impairment phase, vascular dementia can be treated.
Dementia with Lewy body
Dementia with Lewy bodies is considered as the third most common type of dementia, accounting for approximately 10% of cases reported cases in the U.S and UK (Gomperts, 2016). This form of dementia is closely associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases because it shares several characteristics with both these conditions. Lewy bodies are microscopic aggregations of a protein called alpha-synuclein that are present in brain cells in different areas of the brain such as the cerebral cortex (Aarsland, (2016).
Clinical features. Dementia with Lewy bodies features symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease, particularly memory loss. Nevertheless, individuals suffering from the diseases are known to struggle with maintaining alertness and are mostly disoriented thus having a difﬁculty in planning (Aarsland, 2016). Additionally, such patients also suffer from trembling in limbs, shufﬂing when walking, in addition to reduced facial expression (Gomperts 2016). Over the recent past, research has found that individuals suffering from Dementia with Lewy bodies have significant are visual hallucinations that affect their level of conscious awareness.
The three aforementioned forms of dementia are the most common; however, not the only ones. Frontotemporal dementia, Mixed dementia, Huntington’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are other forms or less common causes of dementia. The development of new technology in the 21st-century give more promise in identifying as well as dealing with the most common forms of dementia. The manuscript presented gives a detailed cause and effects of the different types of dementia thus giving additional knowledge to the audience.
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