Dementia is a loss of brain function over weeks, months, or years that occurs with certain diseases.
Dementia due to
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Metabolic causes of dementia include:
Endocrinedisorders, such as Addison’s diseaseor Cushing’s disease
- Heavy metal exposure, such as to lead, arsenic, mercury, or manganese
- Repeat episodes of low blood sugar (
hypoglycemia), most often seen in people with diabetes who use insulin Hyperparathyroidism, which is very high levels of calcium in the blood Hypothyroidism(low levels of thyroid hormone) or thyrotoxicosis(very high levels of thyroid hormone in the body) Liver cirrhosis Porphyria
- Nutritional disorders, such as vitamin B1 deficiency,
vitamin B12deficiency, pellagra, or protein-calorie malnutrition
The early symptoms of dementia can include:
- Difficulty performing tasks that used to come easily, such as balancing a checkbook, playing games (such as bridge), and learning new information or routines
- Getting lost on familiar routes
- Language problems, such as having trouble finding the name of familiar objects
- Losing interest in things you previously enjoyed, flat mood
- Misplacing items
- Personality changes and loss of social skills
As the dementia get worse, symptoms are more obvious and interfere with the ability to take care of yourself:
- Changing sleep patterns, often waking up at night
- Forgetting details about current events, forgetting events in one’s life history
- Having difficulty doing basic tasks, such as preparing meals, choosing proper clothing, or driving
- Having hallucinations, arguments, striking out, and behaving violently
- Having more difficulty reading or writing
- Using poor judgment and losing the ability to recognize danger
- Using the wrong word, not pronouncing words correctly, speaking in confusing sentences
- Withdrawing from social contact
Note: The person may also have symptoms from the disorder that caused dementia.
Signs and tests
An examination of the nervous system (neurologic examination) can show different problems, depending on the cause. Abnormal reflexes may be present.
Tests to diagnose a medical condition causing the dementia may include:
Ammonia level in the blood
Blood chemistry, electrolytes
Blood glucose level
BUN, creatinineto check kidney function
Liver function tests
Lumbar puncture(spinal tap)
- Nutritional assessment
Thyroid function tests Urinalysis
Vitamin B12 level
To rule out certain brain disorders, a
Treatment focuses on managing the disorder and controlling symptoms.
Medications used to treat
The outcome varies depending on the cause of the dementia and the amount of damage to the brain.
Complications may include the following:
- Loss of ability to function or care for self
- Loss of ability to interact
Pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and skin infections Pressure sores
- Symptoms of the underlying problem (such as loss of sensation due to a nerve injury in vitamin B12 deficiency)
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment if symptoms get worse or continue. Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if there is a sudden change in mental status or a life-threatening emergency.
Treating the metabolic disorder may reduce the risk of developing this type of dementia.