Dementia

Dementia is a catch-all term for any brain syndrome which can cause multiple cognitive deficiencies. This can refer to problems with concentration, memory, problem-solving or perception. Dementia occurs due to the death of brain cells or because of damage to parts of the brain which control our thought process.

Although Dementia can refer to any number of mental deficits there are several typical kinds of symptoms which a sufferer is likely to experience;

Becoming easily confused
Restlessness
Repetitive behaviour
Becoming easily irritated or agitated
Weepiness
Sleeping problems
Inappropriate sexual behaviour
Incontinence
Impaired judgement
Inability to plan ahead

Dementia typically occurs in later life with roughly one in 20 people over the age of 65 being affected, cases of dementia happening at a younger age are rare. Whilst most forms of Dementia such as Alzheimer's disease will get worse over time there are some types of dementia where symptoms do not get progressively worse.

As mentioned, Dementia occurs because of brain cell death or damage to certain parts of the brain. This can be caused by neurological diseases like Parkinson's disease or by infections such as AIDS. It may also be caused due to a head injury or pressure on the brain caused by tumors. Other possible causes include vitamin deficiency or ingesting excessive amounts of alcohol over a prolonged period.

By far the most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. This is a degenerative disease usually diagnosed in people over the age of 65 although other forms of Alzheimer's disease can occur much earlier in life. As Alzheimer's disease is a progressive condition the symptoms will continue to get worse as it develops. Around 26 million people worldwide had Alzheimer's in 2006. It attacks nerves, brain cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals which carry messages to and from the brain).

There is no 'cure' for most types of dementia (with the exception of those occurring due to vitamin deficiencies or head injuries) however many symptoms of dementia are treatable. Anti-Dementia drugs like Reminyl and Aricept can be prescribed to alleviate some symptoms and research into other treatments is ongoing. There is some evidence to suggest that treatments such as stem cell therapy and anti-oxidants may be of use in combating dementia. Some patients also find alternative therapies such as Acupuncture and aromatherapy to be helpful. Although there's no sure way of preventing dementia common tips to keep your mind in good health include exercise, maintaining a healthy diet and regularly performing mental challenges such as puzzles or crosswords.