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What is Dementia?

Many people experience some forgetfulness or confusion during their lives. This can be due to reasons such as stress and physical problems. For some these
memory difficulties continue and do not stop when physical symptoms are treated. In these situations it could mean that dementia is developing.
The word dementia is used to describe a number of conditions associated with memory loss. Other symptoms of dementia include: confusion, problems
with understanding and speech, and a decline in the ability to carry out daily living activities. Not everyone with dementia will experience all of the symptoms.
The four most common causes of dementia are:-

1. Alzheimer’s Disease
• Caused by plaques and tangles in the structure of the brain, chemical changes and shrinkage of the brain
• General decline in a range of cognitive abilities including poor memory for recent events,loss of concentration, decision-making difficulties,
disorientation, loss of ability to carry out everyday tasks
• It is the most common form of dementia

2. Vascular Dementia
• Caused by problems with supply of blood in the brain, usually as a result of a stroke or a series of mini-strokes (‘multi-infarct dementia’)
• Decline in a range of cognitive abilities, including memory loss which tends to be variable

• Episodes of acute confusion,
• Step like pattern of deterioration
• Relative preservation of personality
• Usually a greater degree of awareness of their difficulties than in other dementias, hence higher risk of depression
• Speech problems
• Mood swings
• Sometimes epileptic fits or paralysis of a limb
• Second most common dementia

3. Dementia with Lewy Bodies
• Caused by tiny spherical protein deposits within nerve cells, disrupting the brain’s normal functioning
• Parkinsonian symptoms eg; tremor, unsteady gait and slowing down
• Memory loss, disorientation, communication difficulties
• Visual hallucinations
• Fluctuations in symptoms from day to day and even within same day
• May faint or have ‘funny turns’

4. Picks Disease and other fronto-temporal dementias
• Often develops between ages of 40-50
• Sometimes inherited
• Behavioural changes early on - eg. becoming apatheticand withdrawn, or aggressive or disinhibited
• Can develop obsessive behavioural patterns
• Lack of insight
• Problems expressing thoughts
• May over-eat

• Memory can be intact earlier on, but becomes
affected later
• Spatial disorientation

Information regarding these and other types of dementia can be found in information sheets produced by the Alzheimer’s Society. 
Dementia is more likely to affect older people, but people under 65 can develop the condition as well. The risk does increase with age and for these people some
specialist services do exist. Although some people may experience mild memory loss as they grow older, dementia is not inevitable.