Dementia is a decline in mental ability, in which memory, judgment, thinking, the ability to focus or pay attention, and learning capacity are impaired. One’s personality may also deteriorate if they suffer from dementia.
In younger people, sudden onset of dementia can be brought about by brain injury, disease, or by toxic substances or poisons like inhalation of carbon monoxide, which depletes oxygen supply to the brain.
Dementia, although not considered as a normal part of aging, can occur in people 60 years old and above. Like other organs of the body, the brain is affected by the aging process. There may be short-term memory loss or forgetting the details of an event or recent events.
This benign forgetfulness does not cause functional disability and is not a sign of dementia. Dementia, on the other hand, is a serious decrease in memory, mental ability, language, problem-solving, and is progressive. The mental decline interferes with daily life.The causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular diseases like recurrent strokes, injury to the brain like what is seen in boxers due to repeated brain injury (dementia pugilistica), thyroid disease, Vitamin B 12 deficiency, normal pressure hydrocephalus, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS; and Creutzfeldt-Jakob, a rare disease linked to infection with prion and mad cow disease. Of these, the most cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease or AD.
The cause of AD is not exactly known.It can be genetic because it can run in some families.
In AD, parts of the brain degenerate and brain cells lose their ability to respond to stimuli or transmit signals in the brain. During autopsy of AD patients, findings include senile plaques, tangles of fibrils that transmit signals, and abnormal proteins in the brain.
The diagnosis of AD is often uncertain especially during the first four to five years of the disease. Diagnostic tests include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and PET scan (positron emission tomography scan, which uses a special dye containing radioactive tracers that are either swallowed, inhaled, or injected into a vein in the arm depending on what part of the body is being examined) tests for amyloid plaque, cerebrospinal fluid and plasma measures of soluble amyloid and tau, and blood levels of tau. None of these tests have been extensively validated at autopsy.
A new minimally invasive skin test is being presented to accurately diagnose AD with high sensitivity and specificity. The developer says it measures factors related to synaptic connections in the brain like synaptic loss, neuronal death (brain cell death), inflammation, amyloid deposition, hyperphosphorylation of tau protein.
One of the assays in the test is Morphometric Imaging Assay, which has been shown to correlate skin cell abnormalities with AD pathology and dementia in the brain of patients. It is inferred that AD has systemic expression: It does not only affect the brain, it also affects the whole body systems including the skin. The developer SYNAPS Dxcompany says adding the Discern test to other testing procedures can enhance the certainty of making a diagnosis of AD even in the presence of other causes of dementia. A skin punch biopsy from patients with dementia due to AD showed that cells formed large aggregates while cell lines in dementia not due to AD formed smaller and more numerous aggregates.
The test is at a very early stage and large-scale trials are still needed. The U.S. Food and Drugs Administration approval of the skin test is being awaited.
While treatments are available that can ameliorate some symptoms of AD and provide some relief, there is still no cure available and AD inevitably progresses in all patients.