Dementia is a gradual decline of mental ability that affects your intellectual and social skills to the point where daily life becomes difficult. Dementia can affect your memory and your decision-making ability, can impair your judgment and make you feel disoriented, and it may also affect your personality.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and affects about 5% of people over age 65. It occurs more often with advancing age, affecting 20% to 25% of people over the age of 80. About 5% to 10% of dementia is vascular dementia, also known as dementia caused by stroke. At least 10% of cases of dementia are due to a combination of Alzheimer's disease and multiple strokes.
Dementia isn't an acute condition that suddenly appears, and it usually does not require emergency treatment.
Dementia may be caused by a number of factors, such as:
- brain injury
- drug abuse
- side effects to certain medications
- thyroid function abnormalities
- vitamin B12 deficiency
In some cases of dementia, it may be reversible or improved once the underlying cause has been treated.
Aging and a family history of dementia are risk factors for developing dementia. The following factors can also add to the risk of developing dementia:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
Unfortunately, when dementia is caused by conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, brain injury, or blood vessel changes, the changes that occur are irreversible.
Research into the cause and treatment of Alzheimer's disease is shedding new light and more hope every day. Several possible causes have been identified, including genetic factors, exposure to toxins, abnormal protein production, viruses, and difficulties in blood flow to the brain. Aging and heredity (genetic factors) are considered the greatest factors involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Vascular dementia is caused by a series of strokes that leave areas of dead cells in the brain. This disorder may result in sudden, stepwise decline or a more gradual loss of mental ability. Short-term memory is usually affected first.