What is it?
Memory problems and dementia usually reflect a neurodegenerative condition, though sometimes cerebrovascular disease or other conditions such as hydrocephalus may produce similar symptoms. The most common form of neurodegenerative condition that results in dementia is Alzheimer's disease. Other neurodegenerative conditions that result in memory difficulties include frontotemporal dementia (previously called Pick's disease), Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia, corticobasal degeneration (CBD) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include forgetting conversations, repeating yourself, forgetting appointments, difficulty finding your way around familiar places, and difficulty reading a book. These symptoms are usually more severe than would be expected for the person's age, and tend to interfere with everyday adjustment, so the person will have difficulty carrying out tasks they were once able to do.
How does it impact daily life?
Memory problems associated with dementia can affect the individual in a variety of ways, depending on the stage of the dementia and how severe the memory problems are. Thus, the person may find it difficult to continue work if they are still employed, have problems in carrying out domestic duties such as cooking, and may have problems in finding their way around when driving a car.
What are the treatment options?
For most forms of primary degenerative dementia there are few drugs that have a major, permanent beneficial effect. There are some drugs available to treat Alzheimer's disease, such as Donepezil (Aricept), and memory problems associated with Lewy body dementia may be helped by drugs such as Rivastigmine (Exelon). Providing memory aids or adapting the environment may help Alzheimer's patients cope better with their memory problems.