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Dementia - What it is

Dementia describes a group of symptoms such as memory loss, impaired judgment, confusion and behavioural changes, which are severe enough to cause loss of function.

Dementia is not part of normal aging, though the elderly are more prone. Dementia occurs when the brain function gradually fails, affecting day-to-day activities.

Dementia - Symptoms

  • ​Memory loss affecting work
  • Difficulty doing daily tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Confusion about time/place
  • Poor/decreased judgement and problems with abstract thinking
  • Losing/forgetting things
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of initiative
  • Changes in mood behaviour

Dementia - How to prevent?

​While there is no way to prevent dementia, it is possible to lower the risk of dementia by:

  • Staying mentally active
  • Being socially engaged
  • Eating healthily
  • Being physically active

Dementia - Causes and Risk Factors

Risk factors of dementia include:

Some causes of dementia include:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
    AD is the most common form of dementia. Changes in the brain occur gradually. Signs include short term memory, changes in judgment, reasoning and inability to perform daily tasks.
  • Vascular Dementia (VaD)
    VaD is linked to strokes and may be preventable. The lack of blood circulation in the brain results in localised damage to brain areas involved in attention, planning and behaviour.
  • Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)
    In the early stages, FTD mainly affects personality, behaviour and speech. Persons with FTD may behave rashly while their memory and sense of direction remain relatively intact.
  • Lewy Body Dementia (LBD)
    LBD is a form of progressive dementia with noticeable changes in attention and ability to function from day to day. Persons may appear to have a lively imagination or hallucination. Signs may resemble those of Parkinson Disease.

Young Onset Dementia (YOD)

There is an increasing number of patients with YOD. This refers to dementia patients who are below 65 years old. The increased number could be due to rising awareness, resulting in more being diagnosed. It could also be due to the higher prevalence of vascular risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes.

Dementia - Diagnosis

  • ​Interview
    You and your caregiver will be interviewed by a neurologist and a specialist nurse to understand the problems faced.
  • Assessments
    A cognitive and language ability test will be conducted to help the neurologist make a diagnosis.

Other tests include:

  • Blood
    Samples will be tested for vitamin deciencies, thyroid disorders, and markers of infection/inflammation. Fasting is not required.
  • Brain Imaging
    A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scan looks for a treatable cause of dementia or the presence of atrophy (shrinkage) in the brain (Figure 1). A Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan can also confirm the presence of amyloid and tau pathology.

A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scan looks for a treatable cause of dementia or the presence of atrophy (shrinkage) in the brain

Figure 1 : Left - Normal Right - Dementia
Shrinkage of the brain in Dementia patients

  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) testing
    CSF is drawn from the spine to test for markers of dementia. An appointment is needed for this outpatient procedure. You should come with your caregiver who can provide you support as the procedure will last a few hours.

Dementia - Treatments

​Some causes of dementia may be reversible but at present, there is no cure for the common causes such as Alzheimer's Disease and Vascular Dementia.

Medications are used to manage the signs. Appropriate care facilities, behavioural therapies, counselling, and education are available to improve care for patients and their families.

For available programmes, speak to your attending doctor.

Dementia - Preparing for surgery

Dementia - Post-surgery care

Dementia - Other Information

​Support for Dementia

  • NNI Cognitive Assessment Rehabilitation (CARe) Programme
    The NNI CARe Programme equips care partners with knowledge on dementia, so that they can provide support to patients. Participants share their experience and learn from the other care partners.
  • Dementia Singapore
    Formally known as Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA), Dementia Singapore specialises in serving the needs of people living with dementia and their families.

Research on Dementia

As there is still much to learn about dementia, NNI’s research team is actively involved in clinical trials and research studies that require patient participation.

Research programmes for Dementia

Your participation in research is important because it helps us:

  • Develop a cure for dementia. Current medication manages the symptoms only
  • Understand dementia in Asians. Current knowledge is based on studies on non-Asian populations and there may be variations in the biological make-up which makes disease development and treatment different
  • Get access to samples for screening.

Speak to your doctor about NNI research programmes.

Download the Dementia brochure

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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