As board-certified neurologists, the physicians at Regional Neurological Associates specialize in treating a variety of disorders of the central nervous system including dementia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia refers to a group of brain conditions that may affect one’s ability to think, reason or remember. In many cases, visual perception, language skills and the ability to manage one’s emotions are also affected. While many cases of dementia cause a gradual decline in a person’s abilities, sometimes dementia can be sudden and fixed, such as after severe head trauma, and sometimes dementia may even be reversible, as can happen with some infections or vitamin deficiencies.
As many as half of all people ages 85 and older are diagnosed with some form of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease accounting for 60-80% of all cases. Despite its prevalence, it is not considered a normal part of aging.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of dementia include:
- Memory loss and distortion
- Loss of vocabulary
- Changes in mood and disposition
- Faulty reasoning
- Trouble with comprehension
- Difficulty balancing
- Lack of self-care tendencies
- Change in appetite or eating habits
- Loss of social skills
- Disruptions in sleep-wake cycle
How is dementia diagnosed?
Dementia is a clinical diagnosis, and often, a history and examination is all that is required to establish that someone suffers from dementia. Sometimes more elaborate neuropsychological testing is required to distinguish the effects of normal aging from true dementia. A physician will conduct a medical history, physical examination and laboratory tests that may include an MRI scan or other imaging diagnostics. He or she will also ask about changes in thinking, day-to-day function and behavior.
Once it is established that someone is suffering from dementia, it is important to try to establish the cause of the dementia. While this is not always possible to do with certainty, we can often do so with a high degree of probability. We usually first establish that the condition is not due to a reversible cause, and if it is, then set about instituting treatment for that cause. These can include certain vitamin deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and infections, all of which, if caught early enough can be treated effectively. Even if the dementia is not reversible, there are often treatments that can be instituted. Common forms of dementia include Alzheimer Disease, Lewy Body Disease, and Vascular Dementia (that is dementia caused by cerebrovascular disease or strokes). Even though these conditions are not reversible, there are medications that may reduce the impact of the process, and also control some of the symptoms, whether they be cognitive or behavioral. A skilled and sympathetic physician can make a big difference in the impact of this condition. Perhaps, more so than in any other disorder, dementia may have more of an impact on the caretaker or sufferers loved ones than the ill person themselves.
When to Consult a Physician
If you or someone you love is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, call Regional Neurological Associates at (718) 515-4347 to schedule a professional evaluation by one of our experienced physicians. As with many conditions involving the brain, a timely diagnosis may impact treatment results.