When the brain doesn't function properly, it can be the result of injury, a genetic condition, interruption of oxygen to the brain, toxic chemicals in the environment, or a specific disease.
Dementia is the medical term for a group of symptoms. These symptoms are shared by many diseases in the same way a fever is a common symptom in numerous illnesses. Dementia refers to the loss or decline of intellectual ability that interferes with how a person functions. It's a category, not the name of a disease.
Dementia can include memory loss, confusion, and personality changes. The decline of brain function may produce loss of mental ability in vocabulary, mathematics, abstract thinking, judgment, speech, or physical coordination.
The symptoms of dementia are caused by diseases ranging from metabolic disorders, brain injury, infections, toxins, vascular (blood vessel) disease, and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's.
It's important to consider all possible causes for dementia so the doctor makes the correct diagnosis and prescribes proper treatment. In some instances, dementia is treatable and can be stopped, delayed, or reversed. Sadly, this isn't true with Alzheimer's disease.
What Does Alzheimer's Look Like?
The classic signs of early Alzheimer's are:
1. A gradual loss of short-term memory
2. Problems with speech — inability to find or say the correct word.
3. Forget how to use a familiar object, like a phone or a pen.
4. Don't recognize objects have always known.
5. Forget to turn off the stove, or lock the doors — noticeable change in once common behaviors.
6. There may be a change in mood or personality, too. Poor judgment and agitation often occur.
Symptoms of Alzheimer's Appear Gradually
These Signs Don't Always Indicate Alzheimer's
Anyone can forget or use poor judgment occasionally. When lapses are frequent and dangerous, you should consult a doctor immediately. It's best to find a physician who specializes in Alzheimer's, neurology, or gerontology because identification of early Alzheimer's is difficult.
A doctor may want to talk to family members and friends to gather information on their observations of the patient's behaviors. The first assessment should include a thorough physical exam, a functional status assessment, detailed medical history and a mental status exam.
If you see changed behaviors in someone you love, make notes so you can give the doctor accurate and complete information. Be kind, and stay focused on keeping your loved one safe, healthy and happy.
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