Dementia occurs as a result of damage to or loss in nerve cells and their connections in the brain. It presents itself as a collection of symptoms that involve memory loss, reduced cognitive processing, and weakened social abilities that affect your daily life. It is progressive, meaning that the symptoms will eventually worsen as more brain cells become damaged and die. Health professionals often discuss the stages of dementia and outline how far an individual’s cognitive decline has progressed by stages.
How Does Dementia Progress?
The range at which dementia progresses varies among people.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)MCI is characterized by frequent forgetfulness. During this phase, they often struggle with coming up with words to form a thought.
People are still able to function normally during this phase; however, they will experience memory loss that affects their daily life. This might include getting lost, misplacing objects, having trouble organizing and expressing thoughts, and personality changes, such as becoming more subdued or withdrawn.
People who experience symptoms of moderate dementia will generally need greater assistance in doing daily tasks such as bathing, getting dressed, and personal hygiene. During this phase, they may sleep during the day and feel restless at night, have increased confusion, forget recent events, and experience changes in their behaviour, including agitation and suspicion.
As a person progresses through the phases of dementia, they will experience worsening physical capabilities and require full-time assistance for daily tasks, like eating and getting dressed. They also face greater susceptibility to infections, like pneumonia, and loss in their ability to communicate.
Types of Dementia
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s. It is a progressive disease that happens when the connections between the nerves in your brain are lost, ultimately causing memory loss and hindered thinking and reasoning skills. There are also other forms of dementia that resemble Alzheimer’s and involve a progressive degeneration of brain cells. Some of these include vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia. Because most damage done to your brain by these diseases is considered permanent, there is a greater emphasis on making individuals comfortable and offering them a happy and healthy life.
How to Diagnose It
There is not a single test that a doctor or specialist can administer that determines whether or not you have dementia. Certain types of dementia, such as Alzheimers, are diagnosed through a medical history review, a physical exam, lab tests, as well as notable changes in daily functioning and behaviour. There are many different kinds of dementia, each having their own symptoms and changes in brain activity, which causes doctors to struggle with determining the exact type. This is because many of the changes in brain activity overlap with more than one form of dementia. For further diagnosis, it may be necessary to see a neurologist, depending on your doctor’s treatment plan.
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