Dementia is not a specific disease. It is a term that describes a wide range of symptoms caused by a number of diseases. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. However, others, including Parkinson’s disease, can result in dementia. So can non-disease events, such as traumatic brain injury.
Dementia symptoms include memory loss, loss of judgment and rational thinking, loss of word-finding ability and other language skills, and degradation of eyesight and hearing, comprehension among others.
Some non-dementia medical conditions can lead to symptoms that look like dementia. These include thyroid imbalance, low vitamin B levels, urinary tract infection, and others. They can be cured or corrected through treatment and medication. Some people call these “reversible dementias,” but they are not. True dementia, by definition, is brain failure that is not reversible. Stated simply, there are two parts of the brain that is actively dying.
Whether one can retrain the brain depends on whether there is still viable, healthy tissue to work with. For example, when a person has a stroke and loses motor or language skills, often through therapy some or all of these skills can be recovered. This is because,while their brain may be damaged, there is still plenty of healthy tissue to work with.
This is not the case with dementia, including dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Because the brain is dying and shrinking, and because this process is progressive and not reversible, there will eventually remain no healthy tissue to retrain. By definition, dementia is progressive, irreversible, and fatal.
It is very important to know if dementia symptoms are the result of Alzheimer’s, or if they are the result of a correctable medical condition. This is why when symptoms first appear, one should get a memory screening as soon as possible.
Ten percent of adults over the age of 65 will develop some form of dementia. This means that 90 percent will not! So, if symptoms appear, don’t avoid a screening or test. The chances are that you do not have dementia.
Until next time remember: “We all deserve the Best”
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