Alzheimer's disease & dementia

Alzheimer's disease: have we got the cause all wrong?

Early in the 20th century, Alois Alzheimer first described a disorder of progressive memory loss and confusion in a 50-year-old woman. After she died, he examined her brain and saw that it was full of unusual protein clumps, ...

Alzheimer's disease & dementia

Study finds no causal link between smoking and dementia

It's an irrefutable fact that smoking is bad for you. Study after study has proven that smoking increases your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes—even blindness.

Medications

Antiepileptic drugs not tied to dementia risk

(HealthDay)—Antiepileptic drug (AED) use is not significantly associated with dementia risk in patients in Germany, according to a study published online March 12 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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Dementia

Dementia (meaning "deprived of mind") is a cognitive impairment. It may be static, the result of a unique global brain injury or progressive, resulting in long-term decline in cognitive function due to damage or disease in the body 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 syndrome or dysfunction, are given different names in populations younger than adult. Up to the end of the nineteenth century, dementia was a much broader clinical concept.

Dementia is a non-specific illness syndrome (set of signs and symptoms) in which affected areas of cognition may be memory, attention, language, and problem solving. It is normally required to be present for at least 6 months to be diagnosed; cognitive dysfunction which has been seen only over shorter times, particularly less than weeks, must be termed delirium. In all types of general cognitive dysfunction, 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, or even what year it is), in place (not knowing where they are), and in person (not knowing who they are or others around them). Dementia, though often treatable to some degree, is usually due to causes which are progressive and incurable.

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. Causes include 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 (often lasting days to weeks) can easily be confused with dementia, because they have all symptoms in common, save duration, and the fact that delirium is often associated with over-activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Some mental illnesses, including depression and psychosis, may also produce symptoms which must be differentiated from both delirium and dementia.

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