A lack of memory could be a symptom of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or mental illness.
The National Institute on Aging lists memory as a possible symptom of a neurological disorder called frontotemporal dementia, which is a type of dementia.
Memory loss could also be a symptom of mental illness, such as:
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Mental illness is not the same as dementia. But mental illness can cause memory problems.
Symptoms of dementia and mental illness
The symptoms of dementia and mental illness are very similar. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
- Difficulty making decisions
- Trouble finding the right words
- Frequent changes in mood
- Changes in personality
- Trouble with speech
- Lack of awareness
- Memory loss
- Being unable to carry out daily tasks
- Difficulty focusing
- Having trouble understanding
- Inability to form relationships
- Changes in personal hygiene
- Difficulty communicating
- Difficulty performing tasks
The symptoms of mental illness can be similar to those of dementia. But there are also differences.
Dementia is not always a symptom of mental illness. But some people with mental illness may have dementia.
Symptoms of dementia include:
- Changes in personality or behavior
- Difficulty understanding
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble making decisions
- Not being able to carry out daily tasks
- Inability to perform self-care tasks
Mental illness symptoms
Mental illness symptoms include:
- Changes in mood
- Lack of concentration
- Difficulty speaking
- Changes in speech
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor memory
- Poor hygiene
- Emotional changes
How is dementia diagnosed?
A doctor will diagnose dementia based on your symptoms.
If you’re diagnosed with dementia, you may have to go through a number of tests to determine the type of dementia. These tests include:
- A physical exam
- A neurological exam
- A mental status examination
- A brain scan
- Blood tests
- A complete blood count
- A thyroid function test
- A urine test
- An evaluation of your family history
The type of dementia can be more apparent with the use of a brain scan. A brain scan can show damage in the areas of the brain that control memory and other functions.
A doctor may also look for other symptoms of dementia, such as:
- Personality changes
- Changes in behavior
- Difficulty finding the right words
- Difficulty remembering
- Inability to carry out daily tasks
How is dementia treated?
Treatment for dementia can be complicated because there is no cure.
But with treatment, most people with dementia can live independently. The goal of treatment is to improve your quality of life.
People with Alzheimer’s disease may need to help care for an older relative or friend. The caregiving can be very challenging. It’s important that you and your loved one have good support.
Medications can help reduce symptoms of dementia. They can help you take better care of yourself. But people with dementia may not respond to medication.
In some cases, a doctor can prescribe medications to help manage symptoms.
Medications for Alzheimer’s disease
Medications for Alzheimer’s disease can help improve memory, thinking, and behavior. There are several types of medications, including:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors
- Anticholinergic drugs
- Estrogen-containing medications
Some of these medications can help with other symptoms, such as depression or anxiety.
Medications for Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that can cause memory problems. It can make it hard to function. Some medications can help improve these symptoms.
Examples of these medications include:
- Dopamine-reuptake inhibitors
Medications for Huntington’s disease
Medications for Huntington’s disease can help reduce symptoms. These medications can help improve:
- Problems with impulse control
- Problems with judgment
- Movement problems
Medications for Down syndrome
Medications can help improve many symptoms of Down syndrome. These medications include:
- Medications that improve movement and coordination
- Medications that improve memory
- Medications that help with hearing
Medications for autism
Autism is a neurological disorder that can cause memory problems. Treatment for autism includes:
- Medications that help improve the symptoms of autism
- Learning strategies that help people with autism communicate
- Learning strategies that help people with autism interact with others
- Learning strategies that help people with autism adapt to changes in their environment
- Social skills training
- Therapy for depression
Medications for dementia
There are different types of dementia and there are different medications for each type. The following sections will discuss what medications you can use.
Medications can help improve memory and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Examples of these medications include:
- Cholinesterase inhibitor medications
- Anticholinergic medications
Medications can help improve symptoms of mixed dementia. Examples of these medications include:
- Antidepressant medications
- Antipsychotic medications
- Medications that treat sleep problems
Medications can improve the symptoms of vascular dementia. Examples of these medications include:
- Medicines that help with depression and anxiety
- Medicines that help with sleep problems
Medications can improve the symptoms of frontotemporal dementia. Examples of these medications include:
- Antidepressant and antipsychotic medications
- Medicines that treat sleep problems
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
Medications can reduce the symptoms of CJD. Examples of these medications include:
- Medicines that help with sleep
- Medicines that treat depression and anxiety
- Medicines that reduce muscle stiffness
Other types of dementia
Some other types of dementia will not respond to medications. There are other types of dementia that are treatable. These include:
- Lewy body dementia
- Parkinson’s disease dementia
- Dementia with Lewy bodies
What are the risk factors for dementia?
There are many risk factors for dementia. Some of these risk factors are:
- Age. The risk of developing dementia increases as you get older. This is especially true if you have a parent or grandparent with dementia.
- Family history. You’re more likely to develop dementia if both of your parents or a close relative has dementia.
- Gender. Women are more likely to develop dementia than men.
- Race. People of African descent are more likely to develop dementia than people of European descent.
- Poverty. People who live in poverty are more likely to have a higher risk of dementia.
- Mental health conditions. You’re more likely to develop dementia if you have a mental health condition.
What is the life expectancy for dementia?
The life expectancy of someone with dementia depends on the type of dementia.
If you have Alzheimer’s disease, your life expectancy is about 8.5 years. If you have vascular dementia, your life expectancy is about 5 years.
Talk with your doctor about the outlook.
What is the outlook for dementia?
The outlook for dementia depends on the type of dementia. If you have dementia, it’s important to treat it as soon as possible. Early treatment can improve your quality of life.
You may not be able to reverse the damage that has been done to your brain. But you will be able to live a better life.
Your outlook may also depend on how severe your symptoms are. You may be able to live independently, but it may not be as pleasant as it was before.
You may also require assistance with daily tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, or managing finances.
You may also need to take care of your loved ones. They may need to learn how to care for you.
In some cases, you may need to move to a care facility. It may be easier for caregivers to care for you there.
How can I manage my symptoms?
If you have dementia, you may have symptoms that affect your mood. Symptoms of dementia also include:
- Changes in memory and judgment. These symptoms can affect how you think and how you behave.
- Impaired motor skills. You may have difficulty walking, dressing, or bathing.
- Changes in behavior. You may feel anxious or annoyed. You may not respond to your surroundings.
- Changes in personality. You may feel depressed or angry.
These symptoms often occur as a result of medication. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions for taking the medications you are prescribed.
If you have a mental health condition, you may be more likely to develop dementia. This may be especially true for people with depression.
You can manage symptoms of dementia with lifestyle changes and medication. If you have depression, you may also benefit from therapy.
What’s the outlook for people with dementia?
The outlook for people with dementia depends on the type of dementia. If you have Alzheimer’s disease, your life expectancy is about 8.5 years. If you have vascular dementia, your life expectancy is about 5 years.
With both types of dementia, age can be a factor. People older than 65 have a greater risk of both types of dementia.
Talk with your doctor about the outlook for you and any symptoms you may have.
Outlook varies for people with different types of dementia. People who have Alzheimer’s disease tend to live for about 5 years after diagnosis. Those with vascular dementia tend to live for about 10 years after diagnosis.
Most people with dementia can live independently. They may need assistance with daily tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and managing finances.
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