One of the most prevalent neurological affectations. We know their characteristics.
With an increasingly long life expectancy, the problems related to aging are increasingly prevalent. But aging itself is not a disease, and we should not confuse a normative aging process with the onset of dementia.
In this article, we will talk about the most common dementias, which do appear in older people.
Aging is not having an illness
One must be aware of large differences between a normative aging process and a disease such as dementia. Many do not recognize its appearance and attribute changes of the person to aging when in reality a disease is being expressed.
Therefore, the normal weakening of some mental functions is something that should not trigger alarms. The fear of suffering from dementia is growing among the elderly population. The truth is that you should not overestimate the problem in any case, because the well-being of the person is much more than that.
The main types of dementia
As there is great confusion about what health problems are of this nature, including intellectual and behavioral disorders.
Next, we will present the main dementias that may develop in older people.
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia in the world and accounts for about 60% of cases. It is a progressive degenerative brain disease, so that density is lost in some areas of the brain. In this way, a point arrives at which difficulties appear in the normal functioning of the person.
Exactly the causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still unknown. What is well known is that problems develop in proteins called beta-amyloid and tau, which accumulate forming tangles. These proteins are the product of defective metabolic processes and end up causing the death of brain cells. The disease manifests itself differently from person to person. Initial symptoms may include difficulties in learning, communicating, thinking, identifying objects, remembering words or concepts, finding everyday objects or completing common tasks.
The person who suffers Alzheimer’s may also appear confused and have strange or unusual behavior, leading to significant mood changes. You may have difficulty coping with everyday situations, such as those related to hygiene or the relationship with people close to you.
2. Vascular insanity
Vascular dementia, also called multi-infarct dementia, is caused by serious problems in the cerebrovascular system. It can be due to a single accident or different episodes, but what happens for vascular dementia to occur is that the circulation of the blood affects the cerebral supply.
The term «vascular dementia» represents a diverse group of conditions that damage blood vessels and that can not be supplied to certain neurons, which in very short periods without blood die.
It is second dementia in prevalence in the population, and its appearance produces different cognitive deficits. These include the deterioration of memory and the ability to learn, the alteration of language (aphasia), the recognition of things (agnosia), motorcycle deterioration (apraxia), and the capacity for planning, organization, and abstraction.
3. Lewy bodies
After Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, Lewy bodies are the third cause of dementia in the elderly population. The so-called Lewy bodies are abnormal accumulations of a protein that are distributed throughout the brain.
This generates problems for the normal activity of some neurotransmitters, so some brain functions are altered. The thinking, perception, and behavior of affected people is altered by this condition.
The state of attention and alertness undergoes cognitive alterations that manifest themselves in a more or less fluctuating way, being the cognitive deterioration slow but progressive.
4. Frontotemporal dementia
Frontotemporal dementia is the fourth most common form of dementia, after the well-known Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and dementia due to Lewy bodies.
This disease arises due to the progressive deterioration of neurons located in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These areas of the brain control language, behavior, a part of the movement and the ability to think, so these skills are affected.
The mechanism that induces the onset of frontotemporal dementia has only partially been clarified. As in other dementias, the research finds that there is an accumulation of proteins in the brain. Even so, the progressive deterioration of the neurons of the frontal and temporal lobes is subsequent to the formation of these aggregates.
Among the proteins that make up the aggregates, the most representative and famous is the one called tau. This appears in other diseases such as Alzheimer’s. When the tau proteins form the aggregates, some neuronal microtubules stop working properly and the affected cell ends up dying.
Parkinson’s is also a neurological disease very common in the elderly. While there are some cases in which the disease begins when young, the average age of onset is approximately 57 years.
In this dementia, there is a degeneration of neurons that are located in the subcortical structures of the brainstem. These neurons produce a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which the nervous system uses to send messages to muscles. Without the neurons that generate dopamine, our brain is deficient in this neurotransmitter, and the control of muscle activity is impaired.
Normally the expression of the disease consists of tremors in the hands, arms, and legs, which are more affected over time.
On the other hand, there are patients who rather suffer muscle stiffness. In these patients, the movements slow down, decrease, or are difficult to start.
These phenomena can cause muscle pain and a feeling of fatigue, also affecting the expression of the face.
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a hereditary disease, but symptoms usually do not appear until middle age. It is characterized by an intellectual decline and irregular and involuntary movements.
The first symptoms start with uncontrollable movements, awkwardness, and balance problems. It can later affect the ability to walk, talk, and swallow.
Some people stop recognizing family members. Others are aware of their surroundings and can express emotions.
Whoever has a father or mother with this disease will contract it 50% of the possibilities. A blood test can indicate if you have the HD gene and, therefore, the disease will develop. Genetic counseling can help you weigh the risks and benefits of taking the test.
Unfortunately, there is no cure, but medications can help control some of the symptoms, slowing or even stopping the progression of the disease.
7. Pick’s disease
In Pick’s disease or front temporal dementia there are some anomalous substances that appear in the body of some brain cells. In a disease similar to Alzheimer’s, although the area of the brain that affects is more specific.
In general, we are talking about a very progressive disease of brain neurons, especially those located in the frontal and temporal areas. In addition, the ventricles are dilated and the cerebral cortex is also very affected. This pathology does not affect the state of consciousness of the people who suffer from it, but it does affect the cognitive and social abilities of the patients.
It is common for there to be affectations in the speech area, as well as emotional and behavioral alterations,