Kolkata: Dementia is a syndrome ? usually of a chronic or progressive nature ? in which there is deterioration in cognitive function (i.e. the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected from normal ageing.
It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement. Consciousness is not affected. The impairment in cognitive function is commonly accompanied, and occasionally preceded, by deterioration in emotional control, social behaviour, or motivation.
Dementia results from a variety of diseases and injuries that primarily or secondarily affect the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease or stroke. Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide. It is overwhelming not only for the people who have it, but also for their carers and families. There is often a lack of awareness and understanding of dementia, resulting in stigmatization and barriers to diagnosis and care. The impact of dementia on carers, family and societies can be physical, psychological, social and economic.
Dementia affects each person in a different way, depending upon the impact of the disease and the person's personality before becoming ill. The signs and symptoms linked to dementia can be understood in three stages.
Early stage: the early stage of dementia is often overlooked, because the onset is gradual. Common symptoms include: forgetfulness, losing track of the time and becoming lost in familiar places.
Middle stage: as dementia progresses to the middle stage, the signs and symptoms become clearer and more restricting. These include: becoming forgetful of recent events and people's names, becoming lost at home, having increasing difficulty with communication, needing help with personal care and experiencing behaviour changes, including wandering and repeated questioning.
Late stage: the late stage of dementia is one of near total dependence and inactivity. Memory disturbances are serious and the physical signs and symptoms become more obvious. Symptoms include: becoming unaware of the time and place, having difficulty recognizing relatives and friends, having an increasing need for assisted self-care, having difficulty walking and experiencing behaviour changes that may escalate and include aggression.
There are many different forms of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60?70 per cent of cases. Other major forms include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies (abnormal aggregates of protein that develop inside nerve cells), and a group of diseases that contribute to frontotemporal dementia (degeneration of the frontal lobe of the brain). The boundaries between different forms of dementia are indistinct and mixed forms often co-exist.
Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia, with nearly 60 per cent living in low- and middle-income countries. Every year, there are nearly 10 million new cases.(UNI)