Dementia

ConditionsDementia

Our specialists see patients with dementia due to a variety of causes. Dementia is an “umbrella term” and not a specific disease. It describes symptoms of a major neurocognitive disorder that interferes with the patient’s ability to perform everyday functions and activities.

50 million people worldwide suffer from some kind of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular dementia, which can occur after a stroke or with vascular disease in the brain, is the second most common type of dementia.

However, there are many other conditions that can cause dementia symptoms, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems or various vitamin deficiencies.

Various neurodegenerative diseases and other disorders can cause or are risk factors in the development of different types of dementia. These include:

In addition, dementia may be caused as a side-effect of cancer treatment.

  • Memory loss or impairment, such as difficulty remembering names, dates, events, appointments and details of conversations.
  • Difficulty concentrating, planning or developing an appropriate solution to a problem.
  • Problems with completing tasks in a timely and efficient manner at home or at work.
  • Confusion or disorientation with details of place, situation or the passage of time.
  • Visuo-spatial difficulties, such as geographical disorientation with driving, problems judging specific distances, or losing/misplacing items around the home.
  • Language difficulties, such as word-finding problems, constricted/limited vocabulary or changes in the fluency of speech or writing.
  • Demonstrating compromised reasoning or judgment in decision-making.
  • Withdrawal from work or social activity, increased apathy and decreased interest in social engagements or events.
  • Changes in mood, personality or behavior including signs of depression and anxiety.

Dementia diagnosis and treatment vary based on the cause and depend on careful medical, cognitive and physical assessments conducted by our experts. Sometimes a patient’s diagnosis may indicate mixed dementia. For example Alzheimer’s dementia is often accompanied by vascular dementia as well.

One or more of our following specialists may perform the initial assessment:

  • A geriatrician (trained to treat older adults)
  • A neurologist (trained to treat brain/neurocognitive disorders)
  • A geriatric psychiatrist (trained in mental/cognitive disorders of older adults)

Brain imaging

A standard brain imaging medical workup for assessing dementia often includes structural imaging with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), including quantitative volumetric imaging, or computed tomography (CT). These tests identify different causes of dementia that require different treatments and interventions.

Structural imaging can unmask tumors, evidence of small or large strokes, damage from prior traumatic brain injury or even a buildup of fluid in the brain (hydrocephalus) among other conditions.

We carefully review the patient’s medical and physical history, medication history, presenting symptoms and brain imaging results to confirm a correct diagnosis and determine and appropriate course of management and treatment.

More information about brain imaging

For patients and families affected by dementia, the Pacific Brain Health Center provides support with extensive exercise classes and support groups. We offer balance classes and mindfulness/yoga classes along with support groups for patients with dementia co-facilitated by medical and spiritual faculty and guest speakers.

In addition, there are many resources and family caregiver support groups that can help cope with the challenges of these neurodegenerative conditions.

As the signs and symptoms of dementia can vary depending upon the underlying causes of the neurocognitive decline, multidisciplinary care is available at our center and may include therapies for other associated conditions:

Neurologist, Dr. Verna Porter, director of Programs for Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Neurocognitive disorders, offers kind, compassionate, thorough clinical evaluations and a broad array of treatment options, helping the patient to stay connected with the activities and people who matter to them. Contact us at 310-582-7641 to schedule a consultation.