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Dementia (cont.)

Dementia, Alzheimer's, and Aging BrainsĀ
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How is dementia diagnosed?

To diagnosis dementia, testing is performed by doctors. While in-office screening assessments are sometimes enough to confirm a diagnosis, at other times a more in-depth evaluation is required. Blood testing and imaging studies are often completed to confirm that reversible conditions such as thyroid disease or certain vitamin deficiencies are not present.

What are the stages of dementia?

The stages of dementia are loosely grouped into mild, moderate, and severe categories. Patients may seem to fall into two different stages at the same time, depending on what symptoms they are experiencing. The different stages of dementia cannot be used to predict how rapidly someone's condition might progress and patients may remain in one stage for many years or for only a few months. Every patient has a different progression of their disease.

What are the early signs and symptoms of dementia?

Early signs of dementia may include simple forgetfulness, losing items, and problems performing tasks or activities that were previously done without effort. Difficulty with learning new material is frequently one of the earliest signs of dementia. Many patients with early Alzheimer's disease or other dementias are unaware that they have any problem. As the disease progresses, behavioral changes can become evident. Patients have difficulty performing basic tasks, such as getting dressed or using the bathroom. Some patients begin to forget pieces of information about themselves, including their address or telephone number, or even their date of birth. They may have difficulty understanding what is occurring around them. Some patients have problems remembering to eat and may develop pronounced weight loss. In late stages of dementia, patients often cannot recognize family members and their ability to communicate effectively is markedly impaired. They are no longer able to effectively care for themselves and require assistance for all activities of daily living. Over time, patients can forget how to walk or even how to sit up.


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