Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to symptoms related to problems in brain functioning that prevent someone from correctly interpreting and responding to their surroundings, affecting their daily life. Symptoms can include difficulties in memory, language, disorientation and reasoning. This is why it is so important to diagnose the cause.
There are more than 100 types of dementia. Some are reversible, such as those caused by medication interactions, vitamin deficiencies and metabolic problems. Some are irreversible, like Alzheimer’s disease. Irreversible dementias differ depending on which areas of the brain are being affected and which mechanisms are involved in causing the death of the brain cells. According to the World Health Organization, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for approximately 70 percent of all dementias. It results from a clumping of amyloid protein segments outside the neuron (brain cell) producing “plaques” and a twisting of tau proteins inside the neuron forming “tangles.” These result in the death of neurons. This mechanism can begin 10 to 20 years prior to a person actually showing outward symptoms. Researchers are currently looking for non-invasive tests to detect this quiet period with the hope that interventions in this pre-symptomatic stage might make a difference in how Alzheimer’s progresses.
Pattie Gaudio, DC, CADDCT, CDP
Dementia Services Educator Williamsburg Landing