Memory Loss and Dementia

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Many people become forgetful as they become older. This is common and is often not due to dementia. There are also other disorders such as depression and an underactive thyroid that can cause memory problems. Dementia is the most serious form of memory problem. It causes a loss of mental ability, and other symptoms. Dementia can be caused by various disorders which affect parts of the brain involved with thought processes. Most cases are caused by Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, or dementia with Lewy bodies. Symptoms of dementia develop gradually and typically become worse over a number of years. The most important part of treatment for dementia is good-quality support and care for the person with dementia and for their carers. In some cases, treatment with medicines may be helpful.

What is memory loss and what are the causes?
Everybody forgets things from time to time. In general, the things that you tend to forget most easily are the things that you feel do not matter as much. The things that you tend to remember most easily are the things that are important to you – for example, a special birthday. However, some people just seem to have a better memory than others, and some people are more forgetful than others.

There are certain situations that can affect your memory and make you become more forgetful than you normally are. They can include the following.

Poor concentration
If your concentration is poor then you do not notice things as much, and do not retain things as much as you would normally. Poor concentration can be a result of simply being bored or tired. However, it can also be a symptom of depression and anxiety.
Depression
As well as poor concentration, some people with depression also have slowed thinking. This can cause memory problems until the depression clears. Do tell a doctor if you think that you are depressed, as treatment often works well. Other symptoms of depression include: a low mood for most of the time; loss of enjoyment and interest in life; abnormal sadness; weepiness; feelings of guilt or being useless; poor motivation; sleeping problems; tiredness; difficulty with affection; poor appetite; being irritable or restless.

Physical illness
If you feel ill, this can affect concentration and memory. Certain illnesses can directly affect the way your brain works. For example, an underactive thyroid can slow down your body’s functions, including your brain, and can make you more forgetful. Infections such as a chest infection or a urine infection can also cause sudden confusion and memory problems, particularly in older people.

Medicines
Certain medicines can cause confusion and memory problems in some people. For example, some sedative medicines, some painkilling medicines, some medicines that are used to treat Parkinson’s disease, or steroid medicines. Also, if you are taking lots of different medicines, this can increase the risk of them interacting with each other, causing problems, including confusion and memory problems.

Age
As everyone gets older, it often becomes harder to remember things. This is called age-associated memory impairment. Many people over the age of 60 have this common problem, and it is not dementia. For example, it tends to be harder to learn new skills the older you become, or you may more easily forget the names of people you have recently met. It is thought that the more you use your brain when you are older, the more it may counter the development of this age-related decline in memory function. So, doing things such as reading regularly, quizzes, crosswords, memorizing plays or poetry, learning new skills, etc, may help to keep your memory in good shape.

Dementia
Dementia is the most serious form of memory problem. The rest of this leaflet is just about dementia.

What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition of the brain which causes a gradual loss of mental ability, including problems with memory, understanding, judgement, thinking and language. In addition, other problems commonly develop, such as changes in personality and changes in the way a person interacts with others in social situations. As dementia progresses, a person’s ability to look after themself from day to day may also become affected. There are various causes of dementia.

What are the different causes of dementia?
Dementia can be caused by various diseases or disorders which affect the parts of the brain involved with thought processes. However, most cases are caused by Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, or dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). All of these types of dementia cause similar symptoms but some features may point to a particular cause. However, it may not be possible to say what is causing the dementia in every case.

Common signs and symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory loss
  • Impaired judgment
  • Difficulties with abstract thinking
  • Faulty reasoning
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Loss of communication skills
  • Disorientation to time and place
  • Gait, motor, and balance problems
  • Neglect of personal care and safety
  • Hallucinations, paranoia, agitation

signs

Alzheimer’s disease
This is the most common type of dementia, causing about half of all cases. It is named after the doctor who first described it. In Alzheimer’s disease the brain shrinks (atrophies) and the numbers of nerve fibres in the brain gradually reduce. The amount of some brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) is also reduced – in particular, one called acetylcholine. These chemicals help to send messages between brain cells. Tiny deposits called plaques also form throughout the brain. It is not known why these changes in the brain occur, or exactly how they cause dementia. Alzheimer’s disease gradually progresses (worsens) over time as the brain becomes more and more affected.

source : Patient.com.uk

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