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Dementia

Dementia is the progressive decline in cognitive function due to trauma, damage, or disease in the brain beyond what might be expected from normal aging. Areas affected may be memory, attention, language and problem solving, in the later stages of the condition, affected persons may be disoriented in time not know when, where, or who they are. Dementia most commonly occurs late in life. Of all persons over age sixty-five, 5-8% are demented. This percentage increases considerably with age. For example twenty-five to fifty percent of people over eighty five are affected.

There are two types of dementia reversible and irreversible. Reversible dementia can be cured partially or completely with treatment. The degree of reversibility often depends on how quickly the underlying cause is treated. Irreversible dementia is caused by an incurable condition (e.g., Alzheimer's disease). Patients with irreversible dementia are eventually unable to care for themselves and may require round-the-clock care.

The affected person sometimes recognizes the first signs of dementia. Often family or friends first detect the problem. Early symptoms of dementia often consist of changes in personality, or in behavior. Early symptoms could also include memory loss, and difficulty performing complex tasks. A person may mislay items, become lost while driving, get confused in the middle of a conversation or lose a prior ability to balance a checkbook. As the condition progresses the deficits become more pronounced and interfere further with daily activities

The greatest risk factor for dementia is advanced age. Inheriting the genes associated with Alzheimer's or Huntington's disease is a risk factor. Untreated infectious and metabolic disease and substance abuse also can lead to dementia. Other risk factors are brain tumors, cardiovascular disease, head injury, kidney failure, liver disease, thyroid disease, and vitamin b1, b12, or folic acid deficiencies.

The American Psychiatric Association has established two generally accepted criteria for the diagnosis of dementia. They include erosion of recent and remote memory and impairment of language, motor activity, recognition, and executive function. Blood tests may be ordered if the history and physical examination indicates an infectious, metabolic, or toxic condition. The results help the physician rule out Alzheimer's and help determine an effective treatment plan. Electroencephalography (EEG) traces brain wave activity. Some central nervous system disorders cause distinct changes in brain wave

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