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Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms caused by one or a combination of neurological disorders. It is not a specific disease and currently has no medical cure.
A person is considered to have dementia when their memory, learning, thinking or decision-making skills are adversely affected by brain diseases.
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 approximately 6% of people in this age group.
When a person younger than 65 years old frequently displays common symptoms of dementia, such as memory loss, this condition is sometimes referred to as early onset dementia.
As dementia is not a normal part of the aging process, it should not be confused with senility, a term sometimes used to describe the state of physical and mental decline associated with old age. Hence, the term senile dementia is no longer used.
Symptoms may differ depending on the main cause or type of dementia. In general, they include:
There are various brain disorders that can cause symptoms of dementia. These are also sometimes known as types of dementia.
This the most common type of dementia. It occurs due to abnormal build-up of proteins, known as tau tangles and amyloid plaques, that damage healthy neurons (brain cells).
The second most common form of dementia. It occurs due to damage in the blood vessels, resulting in reduced blood supply to the brain.
This results from abnormal clump-like deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies, in the brain.
This uncommon form of dementia usually occurs in people younger than 60 years old. It occurs due to build-up of abnormal amounts of certain proteins in the brain.
The term 'Parkinson's disease dementia' refers to changes in thinking and behaviour in someone who has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Less common causes of dementia include:
Some factors that increase the risk of dementia include:
While dementia is mainly associated with a decline in brain function, other complications, depending on the cause of dementia, may include:
Although there is no proven way to prevent dementia, some healthy lifestyle practices can help to reduce the risk:
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