Dementia is not a disease, but rather a word used for a set of symptoms describing a loss of brain function. While memory loss is often the first symptom, dementia is actually when two or more brain functions are impaired together. These symptoms may include:
- Memory loss
- Behavioral changes such as agitation, delusions, and hallucinations
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Difficulty with problem solving
- Difficulty performing tasks that were previously easy
- Personality changes
- Loss of social skills and tendency to withdraw or isolate self
- Language problems including forgetting names of familiar objects
Dementia is the result of a malfunction of nerve cells in the brain, which in turn lose their connections with other neurons, ultimately resulting in a disconnect between parts of the brain that used to work together.
These malfunctions are the result of damage to or changes in the brain. Certain genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors, as well as some other medical conditions, increase a person’s risk for developing dementia.