Over the years, medical science has made great progress. We have either eradicated many life-threatening diseases of the past and are also able to control or treat a lot of ailments, thus increasing the life span of human beings greatly.
Unfortunately, however, Mother Nature has other tricks up her sleeve and continues to show us who is boss. We might live longer, but along with that there is an increase in the incidence of a host of physical and mental illness that are associated with old age.
Senile dementia and Alzheimer’s (which is a kind of senile dementia) are commonly seen in elders and are seen with alarming frequency these days.
Dementia is a loss of brain function which occurs with certain diseases. It is caused due to degenerative changes and is irreversible. It impairs cognitive functions, memory, thinking, language, behaviour and judgement. Dementia occurs more commonly in elderly people and is rare in people under the age of 60.
Dementia in old age occurs often because of abnormal protein structures in certain areas of the brain. Dementia can also be caused by strokes i.e. vascular dementia. Diseases which can lead to dementia include illnesses which affect the neurological system including the brain such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease and infections such as HIV/AIDS and Lyme disease.
Other diseases which can cause dementia include metabolic disorders such as imbalance in blood sugar, blood electrolytes (sodium, calcium, potassium), low vitamin B12 levels, but the good news is that if these are detected early, the symptoms of dementia can be reversed. Alcoholism is also another cause of dementia.