What is Dementia?
Dementia is the name for a combination of symptoms (a syndrome), where the brain can no longer process information properly. Dementia is a collective name for more than fifty diseases. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition, Vascular Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) and Lewy Body Dementia are common.
Decline in the Brain
In dementia, the nerve cells in the brain break down. Sometimes the nerve cells themselves do not break, but the connections between the cells. It is also possible that the cells and the connections are no longer doing well. Because of this decline in cells, the brain functions less and less well. In some people, the decline is very fast. Others can lead a reasonably normal life for years to come. Eventually someone gets very weakened by the effects of dementia. The person then dies due to a disease or infection (eg pneumonia) or because he can no longer swallow.
The memory problems usually occur at the beginning of the disease. Later, the person with dementia gets problems with thinking and language. He can also have to deal with changes in character and behavior. As the disease gets worse, someone with dementia loses control over their own lives. He is becoming increasingly dependent on the help of others. Daily operations are becoming increasingly difficult.
There are no medicines for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. However, there are medicines that can delay the disease. Research is being carried out all over the world into the causes, possible prevention and treatment of dementia.
Risk factors and risk of dementia
One in five people get dementia. The chance is even greater for women: one in three women develop dementia during her life. The older, the greater the risk of dementia. Above the age of 90, as many as 40 percent of people have a form of dementia. Singapore currently counts more than 45,000 people with dementia. Due to the ageing population and people getting older, more than 187,000 people will suffer from dementia by 2050. Other risk factors that may play a role in the development of dementia are hereditary factors and certain lifestyle habits such as smoking. (Read more about the prevention of dementia.)
Dementia at a young age
People can also develop dementia at a younger age. These people are often still working and sometimes still have children living at home. Making a diagnosis can take a very long time at this younger age. (Read more about dementia at a young age)