Dementia is a broad term that describes loss of memory, language, and thinking abilities. It often affects older adults.
It's more than forgetfulness. It's severe enough to interfere with daily life.
Dementia is not a single disease. It is an umbrella term for several specific disorders.
Alzheimer's disease is one type of dementia. It's by far the most common type, affecting nearly 6.2 million people in the U.S. age 65 and over.
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Damage to brain cells is the root cause of dementia. When the brain cells can't "talk" to each other, it affects a person's ability to communicate, reason, and remember.
Although dementia happens mostly in older adults, it's not a normal part of aging.
Researchers believe that dementia is likely to develop from many factors, including lifestyle, family history, and environment.
There are risk factors that make it more likely you'll suffer some form of dementia.
Complications of dementia include:
At the present, there's no cure for dementia. But there are lifestyle changes you can make to delay or even prevent the onset of it.
To help keep your brain sharp and healthy, you should:
It's normal to slow down a little as you age. Misplacing your keys or not being able to remember the name of a new acquaintance is not cause for alarm.
But the symptoms of dementia are more severe than the occasional forgetful moment. They can vary widely, depending on the type of dementia.
But most people with dementia have:
The early signs of dementia may include:
If you suspect a loved one has a problem beyond mere forgetfulness, it's time to contact the doctor.
To help diagnose dementia, doctors will:
No one test will tell if someone has dementia. It can be challenging to diagnose the exact type someone may have. Symptoms of different dementias can overlap.
If your PCP suspects dementia, they may refer you or a loved one to a:
There's no cure for dementia. But the care team at UPMC may be able to slow the progress of the disease or manage the symptoms.
Your doctor may prescribe:
Someone with dementia may not be able to express themselves well.
The following techniques can help caregivers at home.
It's hard to pinpoint life expectancy after a dementia diagnosis because of the many types and factors involved.
A person with Alzheimer's disease, for instance, lives on average 4 to 8 years after diagnosis. But they can live as long as 20 years.
Talk to your doctor about your loved one's specific case.