How Is Dementia Treated?

Dementia is a term used to describe cognitive decline (via WebMD). Dementia has many potential causes, including degenerative neurological diseases, vascular disorders, tumors, and dozens of others. Because dementia is a broad term that describes various stages of cognitive decline, there is no single way to treat this condition. Instead, the health issues that cause dementia should be treated to manage symptoms.

About 20% of dementia causes, including tumors and alcohol abuse, are reversible. When these issues are treated, the dementia symptoms should go away. However, many causes of dementia are not reversible. Treatments for these causes, including neurological diseases like Alzheimer's disease, will involve managing symptoms of dementia. There is one FDA-approved drug on the market called Aduhelm that can reduce plaque buildup in the brain of someone in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are another type of medication that may be able to slow the progression of cognitive decline. However, these will only lessen symptoms for a period of time before they will no longer be effective.

Potential causes of dementia

There are many health conditions that can lead to dementia. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. According to the Alzheimer's Association, an estimated 60 to 80% of all dementia cases are caused by this condition. Alzheimer's is caused by abnormal deposits of protein in the brain that destroy cells in charge of memory and mental function. The exact cause of this condition is not known. The buildup of two abnormal structures in the brain called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are commonly seen in people with the disease (National Institute on Aging). Alzheimer's can also be caused by genetic mutations.

Other forms of dementia include vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. Vascular dementia happens when oxygen flow to the brain is limited or interrupted for a long period of time (via Alzheimer's Society). Lewy body dementia refers to abnormal clumps of protein that can be found on the brain's outer layer, called the cortex (via National Institute on Aging).