In 2010, there were 3.7 million Indians with dementia and the total societal costs was about 14,700 crore. While the numbers are expected to double by 2030, costs would increase three times (Source: THE DEMENTIA INDIA REPORT 2010). According to The World Alzheimer Report 2015 led by King’s College London, 4.1 million people in India suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s …mental-health ailments are on the rise in India. It is then imperative to know more about them in order to help friends and family who may be coping with them.

Dementia is not a specific condition but refers to a set of symptoms such as memory loss, incoherent thinking, poor social behaviour, etc, present to such an extent that they affects the person’s daily life.

Symptoms of Dementia

Mental or cognitive symptoms include loss of memory, confusion or disorientation, difficulty in communicating clearly, difficulty in reasoning or problem-solving, inability to plan or organize their daily chores, poor hand-to-eye coordination, poor balance and gait, etc Psychological symptoms include anxiety, depression, paranoia and hallucinations.


Causes of Dementia

Dementia is caused by physical changes in one or more parts of the brain which may be due to an injury, or other ailments such as:

  • Alzheimer’s disease. In this condition, clumps of beta-amyloid protein or fibrous tangles made up of tau protein are found in the brains of people over 65 years of age.
  • Vascular dementia. Strokes and other blood vessel conditions can damage blood vessels in different parts of the body which affects the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
  • Lewy body dementia. Lewy bodies are unusual clumps of protein found in the brains of people with this condition as well as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
  • Fronto-temporal dementia. Here, the nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain that is associated with personality, behaviour, learning and memory start degenerating due to unknown causes.
  • Mixed dementia. In this condition, patients show a mix of the various conditions found in Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia.
  • Huntington’s disease. Here, certain nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord start degenerating due to genetic mutation.
  • Traumatic brain injury. Boxers, football players and people in hazardous professions like army, navy, fire department, etc who are prone to repetitive head trauma can develop symptoms of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Here, an abnormal form of a protein starts depositing in the brain cells.
  • Parkinson’s disease. Patients with Parkinson’s disease generally develop dementia symptoms sooner or later.

Also Read: A knock on the head and there goes your memory

Risk Factors of Dementia

A. Risk factors that cannot be controlled

  • Age. People over 65 years of age are at a high risk, however, dementia is not to be confused with age-related symptoms as it has been found in younger people too.
  • Genetic disposition. If parents or close family members have or had a history of dementia, such people are at a higher risk than others.
  • Down syndrome. Those suffering from Down syndrome develop Alzheimer’s disease and subsequently dementia too
  • Cognitive disabilities: People with memory loss and mild cognitive issues are at a higher risk of dementia.

B. Risk factors that can be controlled

  • Alcohol abuse. Heavy drinkers are at a higher risk of dementia than moderate drinkers or teetotalers
  • Cardiovascular risks: People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol deposits in the arteries (atherosclerosis) and those who are obese are at a higher risk
  • Depression. Depression is both a symptom and risk factor for dementia, so it’s good to treat depression at the earliest
  • Diabetes. Diabetics who suffer from high and varying blood sugar count are at a high risk of dementia
  • Smoking. Heavy smoking is known to trigger cardiovascular diseases and dementia
  • Sleep apnea. In this condition, patients suffer from irregular breathing which affects the supply of oxygen to the brain, a sure trigger for dementia

Complications arising out of dementia

  • Malnutrition. Most dementia patients show poor appetite which affects their intake of nutrients
  • Pneumonia. Many dementia patients exhibit difficulty in swallowing or chewing. This increases the risk of choking or pushing food into the lungs which blocks breathing and causes pneumonia.
  • Increased dependency: People with progressive dementia have difficulty performing routine tasks, and need help around bathing, dressing, brushing teeth, using the toilet and taking medication correctly
  • Safety risks: Dementia patients who venture out to drive, cook or walk alone can endanger the safety of themselves and others
  • Death: In advanced cases of dementia, people have known to develop coma or fatal infections

Dementia-like conditions that can be reversed

Patients who develop dementia due to the following causes can be effectively treated and the dementia eliminated:

  • Infections and auto-immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis
  • Metabolic and endocrine ailments such as thyroid problems, low blood sugar, abnormal sodium or calcium levels and poor absorption of Vitamin B-12
  • Nutritional issues: Dehydration as well as low vitamin B-1, B-6 and B-12 levels in the diet
  • Medication side-effects
  • Subdural hematomas: When elders suffer a fall, there is generally bleeding between the surface of the brain and the covering over the brain
  • Toxins: Heavy metals such as lead and mercury, toxins found in pesticides and recreational drugs
  • Brain tumors
  • Normal-pressure Hydrocephalus: When ventricles in the brain get enlarged, it can affect the person’s gait, urination and memory

Also Read: The importance of Brain Health

Treatment for Dementia

Dementia can be cured through various therapies and medications which involve the active participation of gero-psychologists, endocrinologists and specialists from several departments. That is why, its best handled by a super-specialty hospital like Kauvery Hospital.

We have several years of experience in treating dementia patients. In addition to best practices followed worldwide, we have developed our own unique techniques and procedures too.

September 18 is World Alzheimer’s Day

Kauvery Hospital will conduct a Dementia Awareness Drive between 18th and 23rd Sept 2017 to educate people on the condition, mitigate their fears and help them cope with the condition better.


Article by Dr. Bhuvaneswari
Consultant Neurophysiology and Neurosciences
Kauvery Hospital