Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities resulting in a reduced ability to perform everyday tasks and activities. These functions include memory, language skills, visual perception, problem solving, self-management, and the ability to focus and pay attention. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person's functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of living.
Common Types of Dementia:
- Alzheimer’s disease – The most common cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder of the brain, meaning it gets worse over time. People with Alzheimer’s disease have worsening memory loss and trouble with language that interferes with their daily lives. With time, they become increasingly confused and disoriented, find it difficult to make decisions, and show changes in their behavior and personality. Eventually, a person with the condition becomes less able to care for themselves.
- Vascular dementia – Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia and results from reduced blood flow to the brain. Vascular dementia can be caused by stroke, the cumulative effect of mini-strokes, or other conditions that damage blood vessels and decrease circulation.
- Lewy body dementia – In Lewy body dementia, abnormal clumps of proteins, called Lewy bodies, develop in areas of the brain that control aspects of thinking and movement. This type of dementia involves progressive cognitive decline, combined with three additional defining features: (1) pronounced fluctuations in alertness and attention; (2) recurrent visual hallucinations; and (3) parkinsonian motor symptoms, such as tremors, rigidity, and balance issues.
- Frontotemporal dementia – This condition affects the brain’s frontal lobes—the area behind the forehead—and the temporal lobes—the area close to the ears. These two lobes govern personality, behavior, language, and reasoning. In frontotemporal dementia, portions of these lobes shrink, causing symptoms that can include dramatic changes in how a person behaves and speaks. Over time, frontotemporal dementia makes it difficult for people to plan, interact socially, and take care of themselves.
Some forms of dementia are caused by other health conditions and may be reversible. Other forms are a progression of cognitive impairment that will continue over time, but medications and therapies are available to help manage symptoms.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
Mild cognitive impairment is diagnosed when there are noticeable changes in memory or other areas of thinking that are not severe enough to interfere with daily functioning. Like other forms of cognitive impairment, MCI can cause problems with memory, judgment, thinking or language that are greater than the usual changes brought on by aging.
MCI may increase a patient’s risk of developing dementia in the future. Our doctors can help determine whether the symptoms a patient is experiencing are MCI or another type of memory loss, and the best steps to take.