Synonyms in a broader sense
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Dementia development
- Pick’s disease
Dementia is a disorder of the general thinking functions that leads to an impairment of everyday life. In many cases these disorders are progressive and cannot be cured (irreversible). Dementia is typically a disease of the elderly and the elderly person (older than 65 years).
The probability of suffering from severe dementia before the age of 65 is relatively low (less than 1 : 1000). Beyond the age of 65, however, the probability increases to about 15% for mild dementia and to about 6% for severe dementia. Men are typically more likely to develop the disease than women. An exception to this rule is Alzheimer’s disease, which typically affects women more.
This question is difficult and insufficient to answer overall. Science knows dozens of causes that can lead to dementia. On the one hand there are the so-called degenerative dementias, where the causes are either genetically inherited or cannot be explained.
The most important of these are Alzheimer’s disease, Pick’s disease (frontotemporal dementia) and Parkinson’s disease. However, diseases and disorders of the blood vessels can lead to dementia. Dementia often occurs after strokes (apoplexy), reduced blood flow or even oxygen deficiency.
Metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, porphyria or diseases of the thyroid gland can also trigger dementia if they develop badly. Furthermore, poisoning or substance abuse (e.g. drug addiction), infections and cancer must always be considered when looking for the causes of dementia. Alcohol consumption is definitely a risk factor for the occurrence of dementia.
This has been repeatedly observed in many studies. Patients who drink far too much alcohol for years can develop Korsakow syndrome. This disease is characterized by massive memory disorders.
To compensate for these memory gaps, patients usually make up long-winded stories. This process is called “confabulating” in the medical jargon. Unfortunately, the disease is not curable even with adequate therapy.
The lack of blood circulation causes nerve cells in the brain to die, which leads to a disturbance of cognitive function. After Alzheimer it is the most common cause of dementia. Unfortunately, vascular dementia is not curable.
However, patients with risk factors should be treated early so that dementia does not develop in the first place. Risk factors for vascular dementia include diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, smoking, obesity, and high LDL or cholesterol levels. It is rather unlikely that chemotherapy will trigger dementia.
Nevertheless, there are studies that indicate that brain cells are affected by chemotherapy. This fact is called “chemobrain” by scientists. It is mainly about concentration disorders and reduced retentiveness, even 10 years after chemotherapy.
Not all scientists believe in this concept. Some also say that the psychological stress caused by cancer is enough to change nerve cells in the brain. They see it more as a kind of post-traumatic stress after cancer as the cause of the cognitive deficits.
The risk of suffering from dementia increases greatly with age. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. The following additional risk factors have been identified in large epidemiological studies: female gender dementia in first-degree relatives craniocerebral trauma neurological underlying disease, e.g.
Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, stroke alcohol abuse risk factors for arteriosclerosis: high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels Other: few mental challenges, social isolation, depression
- Female sex
- Dementia in first-degree relatives
- Craniocerebral trauma
- Basic neurological disease, e.g. Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, stroke
- Alcohol abuse
- Risk factors for arteriosclerosis: high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, increased cholesterol levels
- Others: few mental challenges, social isolation, depression
Unfortunately, it is not possible to answer this question with a blanket “yes” or “no”. Basically, however, it can be said that most cases occur by chance and are not hereditary. The biggest risk factor is old age.
Then it depends on the cause of dementia. A vascular dementia is caused by circulatory disorders in the brain due to arteriosclerosis; there is rather no hereditary component here. Alzheimer’s disease occurs randomly (sporadically) in 80% of cases. However, there is also a familial Alzheimer’s disease, which is inherited autosomal-dominantly and is characterized by an early onset of the disease (30-60 years).