Dementia is an illness characterized by significant impairment of one or more areas of higher cognitive functioning, such as memory or ability to calculate. Dr. Mel Daly, a geriatrician at Greater Baltimore Medical Center Greater Geriatrics Group, discusses symptoms and treatment for dementia.
•About one in five people over age 80 have some form of dementia. Close relatives of people with early onset (before age 60) Alzheimer's disease have a greater chance of getting the disease. Those with genes from a group called ApoE are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. All persons with Down syndrome will eventually get Alzheimer's if they live long enough, and about half of patients with Parkinson's disease will develop a dementia similar to Alzheimer's. Head trauma or repeated blows to the head are also risk factors.
•Chronic alcoholism often results in dementia. Persons with high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, cigarette smokers, high cholesterol levels, and atrial fibrillation are at risk for strokes that impair higher cognitive functioning.
Dementia can occur in patients with AIDS. Rarely, dementia is caused by other infections such as tertiary syphilis and viruses (Jacob-Creutzfeld disease).
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