Dementia is not an illness, but rather a set of conditions that cause cognitive impairment. There are several causes of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and reversible vitamin B12 deficiency.
Listed below are common causes of reversible dementia, including vitamin B12 deficiency.
There are several forms of dementia; irreversible dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease and treatable dementia-like conditions caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, depression, and medication overuse.
Symptoms of dementia, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) include:
• Memory loss
• Aphasia- language problems, loss of vocabulary
• Apraxia- difficulty directing arm and leg movements
• Agnosia- inability to recognize once-familiar faces and objects, impaired visual perception
• Impaired executive functioning, decision making
• Decline in social behaviors
Types of dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is the most serious form of dementia, and also the most common; it is an incurable illness that causes brain atrophy, shrinking of the brain. Aside from dementia, symptoms of Alzheimer’s may include paranoia, mood swings, depression, and aggression.
Alzheimer’s usually strikes in old age, but not always; some people may notice the signs of dementia as early as their 40s and 50s.
Vascular dementia is cognitive impairment caused by reduced or blocked oxygen supplies to the brain, usually because of a stroke. Symptoms include blindness, disorientation, vertigo, and speech difficulties. After Alzheimer’s, vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) is the second-most common type of dementia.
Depression can also simulate symptoms of dementia in elderly individuals, resulting in a high rate of misdiagnosis. Depressed senior citizens may experience symptoms of confusion, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue that are easily treatable with psychiatric care.
Vitamin B12 deficiency dementia may result from poor red blood cell circulation, as decreased hemoglobin caused by megaloblastic anemia limits the amount of oxygen supplies to the brain.
In addition to memory loss, confusion, and slow thinking, other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may include poor hand-eye coordination, depression, anxiety, fatigue, heart palpitations, and frequent numbness and pain in the extremities.
Unlike age-related dementia, memory loss from vitamin B12 deficiency can be reversed easily with routine vitamin B12 supplementation.
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