Senile Dementia or just Dementia?

The name senile dementia is an expression already in disuse within medical science. However, it remains a common name within popular culture. With this, in general, the cognitive and behavioral problems in the elderly are designated.

If we stick to a more technical definition, we can say that senile dementia corresponds to a serious cognitive impairment, which makes an elderly person dysfunctional. This means that you cannot lead a normal life, without the help of others.

Dementia is not a disease, but a condition. It originates in a multitude of diseases. The most common are Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Lewy body disease and frontotemporal degeneration.

Causes and symptoms of dementia

There are more than 100 diseases that can give rise to senile dementia. However, up to 80% of people who have this condition also have Alzheimer's disease. The usual fact is that it affects people over 60 years old and that it is irreversible.

The main risk factors for developing senile dementia are: age, sedentary lifestyle, depression, low intellectual activity, diet rich in saturated fats and diabetes.

Depending on the disease that gives rise to it, it adopts different manifestations. These are the main ones:

Senile dementia due to Alzheimer's disease: It is the most common. It includes progressive loss of memory, difficulties in expressing oneself, spatial disorientation and gradual increase in dependence to perform basic activities.

Dementia of vascular origin: It originates in some vascular event, mainly a stroke. The symptoms depend on the area of ​​the brain that has been affected. Its evolution is staggered and non-linear.

Dementia with Lewy bodies: Its main characteristic is the presence of visual hallucinations. It is usual to have sudden changes in mental state, postural instability, slow movements and muscular rigidity.

Dementia associated with Parkinson's: It is similar to the previous one. Not all people with Parkinson's disease develop senile dementia. If it happens, the first symptoms occur up to a year after having the disease.

Symptoms

The typical symptoms of dementia, without taking into account its cause, are usually:

  • Loss of social skills
  • Progressive isolation
  • Inappropriate and eventually aggressive behaviors
  • Difficulty in memorizing, orientation and reasoning
  • It is also common to have difficulties in sleep patterns

Diagnosis

There is no single test to diagnose dementia. What usually happens is that the doctor does, first of all, a detailed clinical history to determine the background of the condition presented by the patient. It will also investigate in detail what is the symptomatology.

A physical examination is usually ordered as well. In particular, different tests are indicated to check the state of functioning of the nervous system. The tomographies and the CAT scans help to verify in what conditions the brain is.

Finally, tests are ordered to evaluate the mental condition. These, in general, evaluate cognitive and behavioral abilities. Signs of deterioration are sought in some capacity, especially in reasoning. The most usual thing is that after this dementia is diagnosed, although it is common that its type is not specified.