Forgetting This One Thing Can Mean You Have Dementia
Identifying the signs of memory loss can be helpful in treating it.
Dementia is a much-feared condition associated with aging. But it's becoming more common, simply because more of us are living longer. According to the World Health Organization, dementia cases are expected to triple from their current rate by the year 2050. Although the disease is progressive and there is currently no cure, treatments are available to slow its progression if at all possible. The key is early detection. In particular, forgetting one thing might mean you're developing dementia.
"Dementia is not a single disease but a term that describes a collection of changes to memory, thinking, and personality that interfere with a person's ability to function," says Scott Kaiser, MD, a board-certified geriatrician and director of geriatric cognitive health at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. "This disorder can be caused by a variety of brain diseases or conditions."
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting more than five million Americans.
Memory problems are a common first sign of dementia. Someone with dementia may forget recent or important events, names and places, or where they left certain objects.
Language difficulties, such as forgetting the right words for things, can be a sign of dementia.
"People living with Alzheimer's may have trouble following or joining a conversation," says the Alzheimer's Association. "They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have trouble naming a familiar object or use the wrong name (e.g., calling a "watch" a "hand-clock")."
People with dementia may "use substitutions or talk around the word they cannot recall," says Thomas C. Hammond, MD, a neurologist with Baptist Health's Marcus Neuroscience Institute in Boca Raton, Florida. "These may be subtle language changes that are not readily noticed." To cope with language difficulties, a person with dementia may become withdrawn and socially isolated.
According to Dr. Kaiser, other symptoms of dementia can include:
Misplacing items and being unable to retrace steps to find them; Visual and spatial problems (getting lost while driving); Difficulty solving problems, organizing, planning, or completing mental tasks; General confusion; Problems with coordination (trouble walking); Poor orientation to time or place; Unexplained changes to personality, such as depression, anxiety, or mood swings
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of dementia, "It's important to pursue a thorough evaluation to identify such concerns and address them," says Kaiser. "There are many medical conditions and other factors which can cause reversible memory loss." These can include insomnia, stress, anxiety and depression. The only way to know for sure is to get your concerns checked out.