It’s important to understand that dementia is not a specific type of disease, but rather a general class of conditions characterized by a decline in cognitive functioning severe enough to interfere with daily living. Memory loss and the inability to learn new concepts are examples of the mental decline associated with dementia. Though, dementia is often grouped with senility, it doesn’t necessarily occur in older persons. Dementia may also be the result of medical conditions such as diseases of the thyroid or as the result of head trauma or chronic alcoholism.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and it is associated with aging. Please see our page on Alzheimer’s disease for details on symptoms and treatment.
- The next most common form of dementia after AD is vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is typically caused by a stroke where the blood supply is suddenly cut off to a portion of the brain depriving it of blood and nutrients. A single stroke may not result in VD, however, multiple strokes over a period of time greatly increase the chances of developing VD. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, the underlying conditions that make a stroke more likely can be diagnosed, and if caught in time, a stroke may be prevented by implementing lifestyle changes.
- Dementia can also be caused by head trauma such as from one of more concussions. Mental illness as a result of multiple concussions has gained focus recently due to many professional American football players and their families coming forward and speaking about the lasting effects of this kind of brain injury.
Dementia comes in several different forms and it’s easy to misdiagnose a particular type from symptoms alone. Alzheimer’s disease shares many of the same symptoms as vascular dementia and the memory loss and confusion associated with head trauma. If you notice changes in behavior and cognitive decline in yourself or anyone close to you, the first step is to seek an evaluation by qualified medical practitioner.