What is Dementia and How is it Diagnosed?

The World Health Organization states that an estimated 50 million people have dementia around the world and there are around 10 million new cases each year. An estimated 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases are due to Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common type of dementia. As your loved one ages, you may want to learn about what dementia is, the different types, and how dementia is diagnosed.

What is Dementia?

Dementia refers to an umbrella category of diseases that lead to a loss of cognitive function. This cognitive loss can impair a person’s ability to remember information, think clearly, or even perform activities of daily living (ADLs). Each person is different, so symptoms will vary. However, common symptoms of dementia include memory loss, impaired language skills, impaired problem solving skills, loss of focus, and an inability to manage their home. Overtime, family and friends may notice slight changes with their loved one’s ability to control their emotions or socialize with others. 

While a person’s ability to remember information slows down with age, memory loss is not a normal part of aging. Dementia is not the same as “senior moments,” in which a person occasionally forgets something. Indeed, dementia is different because it interferes with a senior’s ability to perform ADLs at home and can threaten their safety and well-being.

The Different Types of Dementia

Alzheimer’s Disease

You have likely heard of Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common type of dementia. In general, this disease progresses slowly. Alzheimer’s is caused by physical changes in the brain, which include a buildup of specific proteins and nerve damage. The average person lives four to eight years after their diagnosis, while some people live decades after their diagnosis.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies is a type of dementia caused by clumps of protein in the cortex. Common symptoms include:

  • Balance issues
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Movement issues
  • Sleep issues

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia is a group of dementias that can affect a person’s behavior, language skills, and personality. This type of dementia can be caused by various conditions, such as Pick’s disease and progressive supranuclear palsy.

Mixed Dementia

Mixed dementia refers to several types of dementia that cause brain abnormalities. This type is common in Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

Parkinson’s Disease

You have probably heard of Parkinson’s disease, which is a neurodegenerative condition. This disease commonly leads to issues with movement and motor control, but may cause dementia in other people.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is a type of dementia caused by blocked blood vessels, such as after a person has had a stroke or other serious brain injuries. It’s also called post-stroke or multi-infarct dementia and makes up 10 percent of dementia cases. 

How is Dementia Diagnosed?

Since there is a wide range of dementia types, it’s hard to use a single test to diagnose dementia. Instead, a doctor will use a variety of medical tests to determine if a person is showing signs of dementia. 

A Doctor Will:

  • Evaluate a patient’s medical history
  • Perform a physical exam
  • Perform a neurological exam
  • Conduct mental status tests
  • Conduct lab tests to rule out other factors causing a patient’s symptoms

During these tests, a doctor may discover that drug interactions or thyroid issues may be to blame for a patient’s confusion or memory. Indeed, this is why it is imperative for a doctor to perform a series of tests to determine whether or not a patient has dementia.

Contact Liberty Healthcare and Rehab for More Information

If you or someone you know may be showing signs of dementia, it’s important that you contact a doctor for getting tested. Remember that serious memory loss is not a normal part of the aging process. We hope this article was helpful, which discussed what dementia is, the different types, and how is dementia diagnosed. Stay tuned for our upcoming articles that will take a look at the early signs of dementia and the different stages of dementia. Contact Liberty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services today to learn more about dementia, as well as our expert care services.