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Dementia

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Definition

Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. It affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior.

See also: Alzheimer's disease

Symptoms

Dementia symptoms include difficulty with many areas of mental function, including:

  • Language
  • Memory
  • Perception
  • Emotional behavior or personality
  • Cognitive skills (such as calculation, abstract thinking, or judgment)

Dementia usually first appears as forgetfulness.

Mild cognitive impairment is the stage between normal forgetfulness due to aging and the development of dementia. People with MCI have mild problems with thinking and memory that do not interfere with everyday activities. They are often aware of the forgetfulness. Not everyone with MCI develops dementia.

Symptoms of MCI include:

  • Forgetting recent events or conversations
  • Difficulty performing more than one task at a time
  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Taking longer to perform more difficult mental activities

The early symptoms of dementia can include:

  • Language problems, such as trouble finding the name of familiar objects
  • Misplacing items
  • Getting lost on familiar routes
  • Personality changes and loss of social skills
  • Losing interest in things you previously enjoyed, flat mood
  • Difficulty performing tasks that take some thought, but that used to come easily, such as balancing a checkbook, playing games (such as bridge), and learning new information or routines

As the dementia becomes worse, symptoms are more obvious and interfere with the ability to take care of yourself. The symptoms may include:

  • Forgetting details about current events
  • Forgetting events in your own life history, losing awareness of who you are
  • Change in sleep patterns, often waking up at night
  • More difficulty reading or writing
  • Poor judgment and loss of ability to recognize danger
  • Using the wrong word, not pronouncing words correctly, speaking in confusing sentences
  • Withdrawing from social contact
  • Having hallucinations, arguments, striking out, and violent behavior
  • Having delusions, depression, agitation
  • Difficulty doing basic tasks, such as preparing meals, choosing proper clothing, or driving

People with severe dementia can no longer:

  • Understand language
  • Recognize family members
  • Perform basic activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, and bathing

Other symptoms that may occur with dementia:

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