Senile dementia (from Latin de- "apart, away" + mens (genitive mentis) "mind") is the progressive decline in cognitive function due to damage or disease in the brain beyond what might be expected from normal aging. Although dementia is far more common in the geriatric population, it may occur in any stage of adulthood. This age cutoff is defining, as similar sets of symptoms due to organic brain dysfunction are given different names in populations younger than adulthood (see, for instance, developmental disorders).
In dementia, affected areas in cognition may be memory, attention, language, and problem solving. Higher mental functions are affected first in the process. Especially in the later stages of the condition, affected persons may be disoriented in time (not knowing what day of the week, day of the month, month, or even what year it is), in place (not knowing where they are), and in person (not knowing who they are).
Symptoms of dementia can be classified as either reversible or irreversible depending upon the etiology of the disease. Less than 10 percent of cases of dementia are due to causes which may presently be reversed with treatment. Of these cases almost 100% are elderly people. Dementia is a term for a non-specific illness syndrome (set of symptoms) which is caused by many different specific disease processes, in the same way that symptoms of organ dysfunction such as shortness of breath, jaundice, or pain are attributable to many etiologies.
Without careful assessment of history, the short-term syndrome of delirium can easily be confused with dementia, because many of the symptoms of these are also present in dementia. Some mental illnesses including depression and psychosis may also produce symptoms which must be differentiated from both delirium and dementia.
- 1 Epidemiology
- 2 Diagnosis
- 3 Types
- 4 Treatment
- 5 Prevention
- 6 Risk to self & others
- 7 Services
- 8 Further reading
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The prevalence of dementia is rising as the global life expectancy is rising. Particularly in Western countries, there is an increasing concern about the economic impact that dementia will have in future, older populaces. In Australia, the 2006 estimated prevalence of dementia is 1.03% of the population as a whole. Though reports of some of the longest living people claim them to be free of it (e.g. Yone Minagawa), it is a disease which is strongly associated with age; 1% of those aged 60-65, 6% of those aged 75-79, and 45% of those aged 95 or older suffer from the syndrome.
Proper differential diagnosis between the types of dementia (see below) will require, at the least, referral to a specialist, e.g. a geriatric internist, geriatric psychiatrist, neurologist, neuropsychologist or geropsychologist. However, there exist some brief tests (5-15 minutes) that have reasonable reliability and can be used in the office or other setting to screen cognitive status for deficits which are considered pathological. Examples of such tests include the abbreviated mental test score (AMTS), the mini mental state examination (MMSE), Modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MS), the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (CASI), and the clock drawing test.
An AMTS score of less than six (out of a possible score of ten) and an MMSE score under 24 (out of a possible score of 30) suggests a need for further evaluation. Scores must be interpreted in the context of the person's educational and other background, and the particular circumstances; for example, a person highly depressed or in great pain will not be expected to do well on many tests of mental ability.
Mini-mental state examination
- Main article: Mini-mental state examination
Modified Mini-Mental State examination (3MS)
Abbreviated mental test score
- Main article: abbreviated mental test score
Many other tests have been studied including the clock-drawing test example form). Although some may emerge as better alternatives to the MMSE, presently the MMSE is the best studied. However, access to the MMSE is now limited by enforcement of its copyright (details).
Another approach to screening for dementia is to ask an informant (relative or other supporter) to fill out a questionnaire about the person's everyday cognitive functioning. Informant questionnaires provide complementary information to brief cognitive tests. Probably the best known questionnaire of this sort is the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly (IQCODE).
Further evaluation includes retesting at another date, and administration of other (and sometimes more complex) tests of mental function, such as formal neuropsychological testing.
Routine blood tests are also usually performed to rule out treatable causes. These tests include vitamin B12, folic acid, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), C-reactive protein, full blood count, electrolytes, calcium, renal function and liver enzymes. Abnormalities may suggest vitamin deficiency, infection or other problems that commonly cause confusion or disorientation in the elderly. The problem is complicated by the fact that these cause confusion more often in persons who have early dementia, so that "reversal" of such problems may ultimately only be temporary.
Chronic use of substances such as alcohol can also predispose the patient to cognitive changes suggestive of dementia.
A CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) is commonly performed, although these modalities (as is noted below) do not have optimal sensitivity for the diffuse metabolic changes associated with dementia in a patient who shows no gross neurological problems (such as paralysis or weakness) on neurological exam. CT or MRI may suggest normal pressure hydrocephalus, a potentially reversible cause of dementia, and can yield information relevant to other types of dementia, such as infarction (stroke) that would point at a vascular type of dementia. However, the functional neuroimaging modalities of SPECT and PET have shown similar ability to diagnose dementia as clinical exam. The ability of SPECT to differentiate the vascular cause from the Alzheimer disease cause of dementias, appears to be superior to differentiation by clinical exam.
- Alzheimer's disease
- Vascular dementia (also known as multi-infarct dementia), including Binswanger's disease
- Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)
- Alcohol-Induced Persisting Dementia
- Frontotemporal lobar degenerations (FTLD), including Pick's disease
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Dementia pugilistica
- Moyamoya disease
- Dementia due to Huntington's disease
- Dementia due to Hypothyroidism
- Dementia due to Parkinson's disease
- Dementia due to Vitamin B1 deficiency
- Dementia due to Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Dementia due to Folate deficiency
- Dementia due to Syphilis
- Dementia due to Subdural hematoma
- Dementia due to Hypercalcaemia
- Dementia due to Hypoglycemia
- AIDS dementia complex
- Pseudodementia (associated with clinical depression and bipolar disorder)
- Substance-induced persisting dementia (related to psychoactive use and formerly Absinthism)
- Dementia due to multiple etiologies
- Dementia due to other general medical conditions (i.e. end stage renal failure, cardiovascular disease etc.)
- Dementia not otherwise specified (used in cases where no specific criteria is met)
Dementia and early onset dementia have been associated with neurovisceral porphyrias. Porphyria is listed in textbooks in the differential diagnosis of dementia. Because acute intermittent porphyria, hereditary coproporphyria and variegate porphyria are aggravated by environmental toxins and drugs the disorders should be ruled out when these etiologies are raised.
Except for the treatable types listed above, there is no cure to this illness, although scientists are progressing in making a type of medication that will slow down the process. Cholinesterase inhibitors are often used early in the disease course. Cognitive and behavioral interventions may also be appropriate. Educating and providing emotional support to the caregiver (or carer) is of importance as well (see also elderly care).
A Canadian study found that a lifetime of bilingualism has a marked influence on delaying the onset of dementia by an average of four years when compared to monolingual patients. The researchers determined that the onset of dementia symptoms in the monolingual group occurred at the mean age of 71.4, while the bilingual group was 75.5 years. The difference remained even after considering the possible effect of cultural differences, immigration, formal education, employment and even gender as influences in the results.
Tacrine (Cognex), donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Reminyl), and rivastigmine (Exelon) are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of dementia induced by Alzheimer disease. They may be useful for other similar diseases causing dementia such as Parkinsons or vascular dementia.
- N-methyl-D-aspartate Blockers
Drugs within the class known as N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) blockers include memantine (Namenda), which has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of moderate-to-severe dementia.
- Amyloid deposit inhibitors
- Antipsychotic drugs
Haloperidol (Haldol), risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa), and quetiapine (Seroquel) are frequently prescribed to help manage psychosis and agitation. Treatment of dementia-associated psychosis or agitation is intended to decrease psychotic symptoms (for example, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations), screaming, combativeness, and/or violence.
- Antidepressant drugs
Depression is frequently associated with dementia and generally worsens the degree of cognitive and behavioral impairment. Antidepressants may be helpful in alleviating cognitive and behavior symptoms by reuptaking neurotransmitter regulation through reuptake of serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine.
- Antianxiety drugs
Many patients with dementia experience anxiety symptoms. Although benzodiazepines like diazepam (Valium) have been used for treating anxiety in other situations, they are often avoided because they may increase agitation in persons with dementia or are too sedating. Buspirone (Buspar) is often initially tried for mild-to-moderate anxiety.
Selegiline, a drug used primarily in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, appears to slow the development of dementia. Selegiline is thought to act as an antioxidant, preventing free radical damage. However, it also acts as a stimulant, making it difficult to determine whether the delay in onset of dementia symptoms is due to protection from free radicals or to the general elevation of brain activity from the stimulant effect.
- Main article: Prevention of dementia
Since there is no cure for dementia, the best an individual can do is to prevent it from developing in the first place.
The main method to prevent dementia is to live an active life, both mentally and physically. It appears that the regular moderate consumption of alcohol (beer, wine or distilled spirits) may reduce risk.
Furthermore, there are medications which might contribute to prevent the onset of dementia, including hypertension medications, anti-diabetic drugs and NSAIDs.
Studies published in US journals suggested that a Mediterranean diet or long-term beta-carotene supplements could ward off dementia. 
Risk to self & others
Florida's Baker Act allows law enforcement and the judiciary to force mental evaluation for those suspected of suffering from Dementia or other mental incapacities.
Adult daycare centers as well as special care units in nursing homes often provide specialized care for dementia patients. Adult daycare centers offer supervision, recreation, meals, and limited health care to participants, as well as providing respite for caregivers.
- Alzheimers disease
- Caregiving and dementia
- [[Cerebral arteriosclerosis
- Physiological aging
- Presenile dementia
- Senile psychosis
- Progressive supranuclear palsy
- American Family Physician, March 1, 2003 Delirium
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- West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (with further links to experiments respectively)
- Drivers with dementia a growing problem, MDs warn, CBC News, Canada, September 19, 2007
- An Amazing Documentary About Dementia Produced by Knowledge Network
- Dementia Research News from ScienceDaily
- The Dementia Services Development Centre, University of Stirling
- Dementia tutorial for U.K. practitioners by the Alzheimer's Society
- PDF (897 KiB)
- AlzheimersDementiaInfo - Articles and information regarding Alzheimer's disease and other elder care issues.
- Understanding Dementia: a primer of diagnosis and management
- AlzOnline - AlzOnline provides education, information, and support to persons caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease or a related memory problem.
- Drivers with dementia a growing problem, MDs warn, CBC News, Canada, September 19, 2007
- CSIP National Older Persons Mental Health Programme Includes an involvement toolkit with tips on how people with dementia can get involved in the planning, development and evaluation of services
- Dementia Advocacy and Support Network
- Dementia Care Mapping Bradford Dementia Group
- GPnotebook -1650851840
- eMedicine:Consumer 38533-1
- MedlinePlus Overview dementia
- Merck Geriatrics 5-40a
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