Every year, 200, 000 people in the Federal Republic of Germany fall ill with dementia. The older we get, the higher the risk of developing dementia: more than seven percent of people over the age of 65 in Germany are affected, and almost every third person over the age of 90 is ill. It is therefore all the more important to recognize early when the first signs of the disease appear. We explain what causes and symptoms speak for, but also against dementia.
Causes of dementia
Dementia describes the state of mental decline and the loss of previously mastered abilities. The causes are different. The most common subtype is Alzheimer's dementia, which destroys neurons in the brain and breaks them down because protein plaques are deposited in them. Another cause of dementia is a lack of blood supply to the brain. This form of the disease is called vascular dementia. It is based on many small strokes, which only become apparent in the sum.
Family members are worried
Due to the high number of people with dementia, many people are afraid of becoming ill themselves, or that their relatives may be affected by dementia. As soon as things get misplaced or details are forgotten, it quickly makes you wonder if something is wrong? But not everyone who forgets things suffers from dementia. It is natural to misplace and forget things - and this is part of the normal aging process.
Tests for the early detection of dementia
On the other hand, in order to detect the onset of dementia at an early stage, there are special issues that both the relatives and the attending physician can pay attention to. Above all, behavioral observations, language tests and cognitive tasks are helpful in demonstrating the first signs of dementia.
The following symptoms indicate dementia:
- Linguistic Restrictions: Problems in finding the right words in the conversation or following the conversation in the conversation
- The power of judgment wears off: trying to understand complex relationships that were previously understood without any problems, such as how a meal is cooked, how groceries are done in the supermarket, how simple electrical appliances are operated
- Forgetfulness in everyday life: objects are mislaid, what has already been said is repeated several times, appointments or experiences that have been experienced together are forgotten
- Orientation loss in previously known environment
- Personality changes: increased irritability, inner and outer restlessness
Symptoms of dementia per stage
Slight restrictions, which are typical for the early stages of dementia, are shown, for example, when complicated tasks can no longer be solved in everyday life, such as arithmetic or the reading of a clock. An independent lifestyle is then already restricted, but still possible. It becomes more problematic if even simple everyday tasks can no longer be mastered, how to properly dress and care for everyday objects in their function are no longer recognized as such.
Then those affected depend on outside help. In a severe form of dementia, the cognitive functions of the patients are so limited that even simple thoughts can no longer be understood by them.
MRI as additional examination
Imaging brain imaging, such as MRI, is not one of the first measures to diagnose dementia. However, they can help distinguish between the different dementia causes. In vascular dementia, which is caused by many small strokes, the scars of the strokes show up, for example, on MRI or CT.
And in Alzheimer's dementia PET / CT (positron emission tomography / computed tomography) shows a lesser metabolism of the nerve cells of the brain. In addition, study results have shown that the size of the brain in advanced Alzheimer's dementia is reduced on MRI. However, this is not specific enough to make a diagnosis - pioneering the diagnosis of "dementia" are the symptoms of mental degradation.
Dementia differentiate from other diseases
It is also important to differentiate dementia from other illnesses, such as depression, which is often associated with a decline in mental capacity. When dementia is suspected, it should also not be forgotten that other causes, such as malnutrition, newly-diagnosed deafness or thyroid dysfunction may look similar to dementia.