Major Neurocognitive Disorder (Dementia)

July 19, 2019
Neurocognitive disorders affect memory, perception and problem-solving. Unfortunately, there's no cure for this condition. The good news is, however, that there are treatments for the symptoms.

Major neurocognitive disorder, also known as dementia, is a condition that involves neuronal damages and a decline in brain functioning. Over time, a person afflicted by it will lose their autonomy even in the most menial tasks.

Neurocognitive disorders mainly take a toll on a person’s memory, perception, and problem-solving abilities. These are what many doctors refer to as “neurocognitive functions.”

The most direct neurocognitive disorders are amnesia, dementia, and delirium. Dementia, or major neurocognitive disorder, specifically appears in people over 60 years of age.

According to data from the World Health Organization, there are approximately 4.7 million people afflicted by this condition in the world.

Currently, as life expectancy increases and with it the aging consequences, major neurocognitive disorder has become a global problem. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for this disease. However, the good news is symptoms may decrease with proper medical treatment.

Major Neurocognitive Disorder

Symptoms and Stages

A plastic brain wrapped by a stethoscope.
In this type of disorder, there is a progressive deterioration of cognitive functions. They can severely affect someone’s quality of life.

When it comes to major neurocognitive disorder, the main symptoms manifest through damage in different areas of a person’s mental function. The individual will experience a degenerative process in their autonomy and ability to perform activities.

The following serious impairments are common:

  • Changes in emotional behavior and/or personality.
  • Shifts in language abilities and perception
  • A decline in analysis and judgment abilities.
  • Memory loss.

Besides, there are several symptoms related to the disorder that a person may experience. They may even hallucinate or get depressed or even become aggressive or delusional.

In the evolutionary process of major neurocognitive disorder, there are three different stages that we’ll describe below.

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The Initial Stage of the Disease

The first symptoms consist of mild and gradual issues.

Above all, a person begins to experiences forgetfulness and episodes of disorientation in time or space. However, such episodes aren’t too frequent yet.

The Intermediate Stage of Major Neurocognitive Disorder

Next, as time goes by, the condition matures and the manifestations are now more evident. In time, the person afflicted by it can no longer function properly and they can’t function on their own anymore. This includes seemingly simple tasks that we tend to take for granted such as grooming, shopping and paying bills.

Also, memory lapses become more serious and frequent. Also, they may become disoriented in their own home and experience mild episodes of amnesia. Also, they may experience difficulties in communication.

Advanced Stage

Finally, a person becomes progressively worse after reaching the most advanced stages of major neurocognitive disorder.

The person afflicted will have increasingly more problems with their daily routine. They may even display aggressive behavior. Then, in the end, they’ll be entirely dependent and inactive.

Major Neurocognitive Disorder and Alzheimer’s

Two women holding hands.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. In fact, this disease appears in 60-80% of the cases with a Major neurocognitive disorder diagnosis. Currently, there’s no cure for either Alzheimer’s or any type of major neurocognitive disorder.

However, there are a series of treatments that focus on decreasing the symptoms. This is to improve the quality of life of a person with this diagnosis. These treatments can also slow down the development of the disease.

Currently, Alzheimer’s is one of the main priorities in biomedical research.

Discover: Non-Alzheimer’s Types of Dementia

Major Neurocognitive Disorder: Treatment

As we said before, there’s no cure for Major neurocognitive disorder yet. Therefore, the progressive development of the disease is inevitable and treatments are solely focused on improving the quality of life.

Firstly, we should mention how important is the job that nurse teams, doctors and social workers perform because this is a multifactorial disorder. Besides, the role of the main caregiver is fundamental in the treatment of this disorder as they handle the evolution of the disease. It’s very important to prevent complications due to the treatment or its side effects.

Family support is essential, as a person with Alzheimer’s should never be alone. Also, occupational therapies and support networks could help them.

In some cases, it’s important to prevent certain secondary causes of the disease such as hypertension, cholesterol or obesity. The idea is to act against any risk factors that may predispose someone to this condition.

In addition, there are a few treatments for the symptoms of major cognitive disorder. These symptoms may include hallucinations, delusions, depression or aggression, among others. The types of drugs used in these cases are antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants.