Diagnosing dementia

ACCORDING TO THE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; www.cdc.gov), Alzheimer’s disease is perhaps the most common form of dementia, although several other forms exist.

Dementia is not a specific disease. Rather it describes a collection of symptoms caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain. Doctors diagnose dementia when two or more brain functions, such as memory and language skills, are significantly impaired without a loss of consciousness that might otherwise occur as a result of traumatic brain injury. Alzheimer’s is the most progressive stage of dementia and affects upwards of 5.3 million Americans.

Because we are a society whose inhabitants are clearly enjoying longer life spans, some experts have characterized dementia as an old person’s disease. Although treatable, dementia is far from curable. Doctors can prescribe medications to improve or slow the progression of patients’ symptoms, while researchers continue to focus on all forms of the illness, including Alzheimer’s.

Risk factors to consider when evaluating those suspected of having dementia include:

● Age—adults 60 and older could develop signs of dementia.
● Family history (aunts, uncles, cousins)
● Heredity (parents and grandparents)

Being proactive and providing this and other information will help your family physician or medical staff determine links to the disease’s origin.

Early signs of dementia where the disease might be considered suspect are:

● Forgetfulness—not just occasionally misplacing glasses or car keys, but a constant forgetfulness that is noticed by friends and family
● Putting things in the wrong places, such as putting the iron in the refrigerator, or the milk in the cupboard
● Being unable to follow simple directions, such as going somewhere one has always gone and getting lost
● Loss of interest in favorite hobbies
● Personality changes

These are just a few early signs that something might be amiss in someone experiencing the signs of early dementia.

It’s always best to get a physician’s recommendation before attempting to diagnose any illness. Dementia, according to the
CDC, can be caused by a variety of things, including a reaction to certain medications, infections and nutritional deficiencies, which may be reversed with proper treatment.

Researchers are focusing on these forms of dementia in an effort to improve people’s lives and ultimately prevent or cure these disorders.

For more insights, visit the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website on dementia at www.ninds.nih.gov.

Source: Clara Freeman – CostcoConnection

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