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Dementia

  • What is Dementia?

    Dementia is an illness that causes the brain cells to die faster than normal. It is not part of the normal ageing process and currently has no medical cure.

    Dementia causes a decline in mental, judgemental and behavioural abilities, which then leads to memory loss, reduced intellectual abilities and personality changes. It can affect adults at any stage of life but the incidence of dementia is more common in people over 65 years of age. In Singapore, dementia affects 6.2% of people in this age group.

    There are several types of dementia:

    • Alzheimer’s disease, resulting from a combination of genetic and lifestyle risk factors
    • Vascular/multi-infarct dementia (injury in more than one brain area), resulting from multiple brain strokes that block blood supply to the brain
  • Different causes can lead to dementia. Vascular dementia can occur if the brain has undergone multiple strokes. Also, some degenerative neurological diseases, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and certain types of multiple sclerosis can cause dementia. In addition, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and some central nervous system infections, such as meningitis (inflammation of brain membrane), can trigger the development of dementia.  

    Other causes include traumatic injury to the brain caused by falls or motor vehicle accidents, excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs, depression, a family history of dementia and ageing. Some diseases that increase the risk of dementia include diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Also, the build-up of excess fluid in the brain due to infections or tumours can promote the development of dementia.

  • Dementia affects a person’s ability to live safely and independently, and the symptoms worsen with time. Symptoms may include:

    • Changes in mood, behaviour and personality
    • Difficulty completing familiar jobs
    • Difficulty in tackling problems
    • Loss of interest in work and social activities
    • Memory loss that affects day-to-day performance
    • Misplacing things
    • Poor judgement
    • Problems in communication
    • Uncertainty about time and place
  • Several treatments reduce symptoms and treat underlying causes of dementia. These include:

    • Appropriate care facilities
    • Behavioural therapy
    • Counselling
    • Education about the illness
    • Eliminating alcohol and drug consumption
    • Medications to treat illnesses that trigger the onset of dementia
    • Decreased lifespan
    • Delusions and hallucinations
    • Depression
    • Insufficient nutrition
    • Increased risk of infections anywhere in the body
    • Loss of ability for social interactions
    • Loss of ability to live safely and independently, and to care for themselves
    • Side effects of medications
    • Insomnia
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