What is Dementia?
Dementia is a broad term for a decline in memory, cognitive ability and problem-solving ability. It covers a wide range of conditions, but Alzheimer’s disease is by far the most common cause of dementia. Vascular dementia, caused after bleeding in a certain part of the brain, is the second most common form. Some less common forms of dementia, such as those caused by thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies, can be reversible. While the diagnosis of any dementia can be a difficult one for patients and their families, UTHealth Houston Neurosciences is here to help provide comprehensive and compassionate care.
UTHealth Houston Neurosciences Memory Disorders specialist Dr. Paul Schulz discusses dementia, when you should see a physician if you or your loved on begins to have cognitive changes, and what is involved with cognitive testing.
What You Can Expect at UTHealth Houston Neurosciences
At UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, our dedicated team uses the latest technology to accurately diagnose and treat patients with any form of dementia. We work in multidisciplinary teams of specialists who share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.
While dementia is age related, it is not a normal part of aging. Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. In Alzheimer’s patients, increased amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles form, blocking communication among nerve cells. Vascular dementia is the result of microscopic bleeding and blood vessel blockage in the brain. Hypothyroidism, a metabolic disorder, can also trigger dementia. In those cases, an underperforming thyroid can lead to decreased metabolism, resulting in the slowing of mental activity. Folate and B12 deficiencies might also contribute to symptoms of a reversible form of this condition.
Signs of Dementia
Symptoms typically appear after the age of 65. A person may just experience some slight confusion or memory loss, which may seem to be a normal part of aging. Patients may have trouble remembering where they put something or recalling a conversation. They may repeat the same statements, forget appointments, or get lost easily. A person might struggle to find the right words or display impaired judgment. Eventually, they may be unable to recognize their loved ones. Changes in personality and behavior can also occur.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia usually begins with self-reporting of symptoms by the patient or a close family member. UTHealth Houston Neurosciences doctors with extensive experience will evaluate cognitive skills, conduct lab tests and brain imaging, and perform physical and neurological tests. A series of exams will help our doctors assess memory and rule out other issues. A CT scan or an MRI may be ordered, especially if vascular dementia is suspected.
While most forms of dementia have no cure, the doctors at UTHealth Houston Neurosciences have pioneered models of care that treat symptoms and improve quality of life for patients and their caregivers. A team that includes neurologists, geriatric psychologists, and social workers will develop a plan that may include education, counseling, medication, and behavioral modifications. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to help control behavioral symptoms. Our team of experts will also help navigate lifestyle and environment changes that may be helpful for patients with dementia. Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol might be recommended, especially for patients with vascular dementia.
At UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.