Dementia is a word that’s often used to describe conditions related to memory loss and cognitive decline. But it’s important to understand that dementia isn’t just one condition – it’s an umbrella term covering a range of specific medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease. These disorders are caused by abnormal brain changes which lead to thinking and memory issues that impair daily life and independent functioning. 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for up to 80% of cases. Vascular dementia – caused by blockage or bleeding in the brain – is the second most common form. Mixed dementia occurs when a person experiences symptoms from multiple types at once. Thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies and some other medical conditions can also cause symptoms of dementia, and in some cases the symptoms may be reversed.

It’s important to note that dementia is not a normal part of aging – although it was historically referred to as “senility” or “senile dementia.” It’s a serious condition which needs to be addressed promptly. Early diagnosis can make all the difference in managing it and improving quality of life. 

Causes of Dementia 

If you or someone you know is experiencing persistent changes in their thinking, behavior, and overall well-being, it could be a sign of dementia. Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells that interfere with the ability for them to communicate properly. Different types of dementia are associated with specific regions of the brain being affected. For example, in Alzheimer’s disease, high levels of certain proteins make it difficult for brain cells to stay healthy and communicate with each other. Memory loss is often one of the first signs of this condition as the hippocampus – an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory – becomes damaged.

Early Signs of Dementia

Symptoms include problems with short-term memory, keeping track of items such as wallets and purses, paying bills, meal planning and preparation, remembering appointments or even travelling out of the neighborhood. Dementia is a progressive condition that gets worse over time. It is important to seek professional advice as soon as possible in order to get the most benefit from available treatments and for planning for the future. Don’t ignore any signs or symptoms, come see a Rancho Family doctor soon!

While most changes that cause dementia are irreversible and worsen over time, memory loss and other thinking difficulties that are related to depression, medication side effects, alcohol use, thyroid problems, or vitamin deficiencies may be reversible if the underlying cause can be identified and treated.

Diagnosis, Treatment and Care

If you find that your memory and thinking skills have been changing, it is important to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor. Our Riverside County physicians can come alongside you to provide detailed, compassionate care.  Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms often overlap, we can connect you to a specialist such as a neurologist or psychiatrist if needed. Even though there is currently no cure for most progressive dementias, there are treatments available to slow the worsening of symptoms and improve your quality of life. Medications used to treat Alzheimer’s are among these treatments, as well as non-drug therapies such as cognitive stimulation. 

If you have concerns about dementia, you can speak to a Rancho Family doctor – we will be able to advise on treatments, lifestyle changes, and support services that may help manage your symptoms. To get help becoming a patient please contact our Patient Relations Team at (951) 225-6808.  If you need help booking an appointment, please call (951) 225-6808. We look forward to helping you on your healthcare journey.