A lot of research have suggested that schizophrenia and dementia are linked. People who get schizophrenia late in life appear to have a higher risk of dementia.
According to a 2018 study, people with extremely late-onset schizophrenia (schizophrenia that first presents after the age of 60) had a threefold increased chance of getting dementia. The specific nature of the link between schizophrenia and dementia, on the other hand, is less apparent. For many years, researchers and clinicians have regarded late-onset and very late-onset schizophrenia as an uncommon but distinct clinical entity.
Researchers are unsure if schizophrenia is a cause of dementia, a risk factor for dementia, or whether one might assist predict the other. In fact, schizophrenia was formerly referred to as “dementia praecox,” or “early dementia.”
However, schizophrenia has been described as having a loss in cognitive capacity that occurs early in the course of the condition with little progression. The question in this situation is whether having schizophrenia raises the likelihood of developing a neurodegenerative disease like dementia.
Psychosis, a set of symptoms that is a hallmark of schizophrenia, might be a precursor to dementia. Dementia can cause schizophrenia-like symptoms in people who have never had the illness before.
Continue reading to discover more about the connection between dementia and schizophrenia, including how one may cause the other, important distinctions, and care and preventative strategies.
Is there a link?
Several studies have discovered a correlation between having schizophrenia and later being diagnosed with dementia. A 2018 meta-analysis, for example, looked at six previous studies in which one out of every 25 people had dementia. When a person has both schizophrenia and dementia, researchers discovered a substantial rise in the chance of dementia.
Another 2018 study discovered a link between extremely late-onset schizophrenia and dementia development. Dementia rates were three times higher in people with extremely late onset schizophrenia.
Can schizophrenia lead to dementia?
It’s unknown if schizophrenia causes dementia or if the two diseases have some additional characteristic that makes them more likely to coexist. It’s also unknown if treating schizophrenia lowers the chance of dementia.
Dementia and schizophrenia have many symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, and behavioral abnormalities, which further complicates things. This is especially true for certain types of dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia, which appears earlier in life and can mirror symptoms of schizophrenia.
Even before they acquire other symptoms, some people with dementia experience psychosis – a separation from reality. According to a 2017 study, people who are diagnosed with late-onset schizophrenia may really have dementia with psychosis as a side effect of their condition. When people come with psychosis later in life, it’s even more important to get a full medical assessment that addresses both diagnosis.
How do doctors make sure the patient receives the accurate diagnosis?
Both schizophrenia and dementia can be difficult to diagnose. When a person already has one of the two criteria, the difficulties multiply.
There is no single test that can diagnose dementia. While tests can demonstrate that a person’s cognitive function has deteriorated, they cannot definitively verify that dementia is the cause or the form of dementia a person has. However, the tests can assist in determining which diagnosis is most plausible.
Instead, physicians seek for dementia indicators, such as indications of plaques in the brain, using a mix of tests such as bloodwork and brain scans. However, not everyone who has dementia has brain symptoms, and some people who have plaques or other symptoms do not have dementia.
Similarly, no one test can show that someone has schizophrenia, and clinicians do not utilize brain scans or blood tests to diagnose the condition. Rather, symptoms like as delusions, hallucinations, socially inappropriate conduct, and a dissociation from reality are used to make the diagnosis.
Some of these symptoms are similar to dementia.
Dementia, particularly frontotemporal dementia, can be easily confused with schizophrenia. Aggression, impulse control, and hallucinations are all possible symptoms of frontotemporal dementia, which impacts behavior and mental health. It also appears earlier in life than Alzheimer’s disease, making it much more easily confused with schizophrenia.
How are the conditions different?
Both schizophrenia and dementia have an impact on one’s thinking and conduct, which can lead to the formation of incorrect ideas. The following are some important distinctions:
- Schizophrenia typically appears earlier in life than dementia, though there are exceptions, especially for very late-onset schizophrenia and early onset dementia.
- Memory and thinking difficulties tend to be the earliest symptoms in most types of dementia. In schizophrenia, delusions and hallucinations may be more noticeable early in the disease.
- Dementia is a progressive and terminal illness that steadily erodes brain function. While schizophrenia may get worse with time, it is not inevitably fatal nor progressive, and it does not typically affect daily functions such as bowel and bladder control.
- There are many different types of dementia, each with their own unique early symptoms. Frontotemporal dementia, for example, more closely resembles schizophrenia in the early stages, while Alzheimer’s more typically attacks short-term memory.
- People with dementia are more likely to acquire additional health issues later in life, such as pneumonia and repeated infections.
How are they similar?
Both schizophrenia and dementia attack the brain, impairing a person’s capacity to think properly and act in socially acceptable ways. The following are some important parallels:
- While the typical age of onset differs, both illnesses can strike anybody at any time.
- Both circumstances can exist at the same moment.
- Both can cause to memory, executive functioning, and behavioral issues.
- Both of these diseases can cause to psychosis, which is when a person believes or experiences things that aren’t there.
- Both condition has no cure, although they are both treatable. Medication for schizophrenia can significantly lessen symptoms, however dementia treatment becomes more unsuccessful as the disease advances.
- Both disorders have the potential to diminish a person’s lifespan. Dementia is a fatal disease, and people with schizophrenia frequently live 10–20 years less than the average population.
- Both diseases have been linked to other chronic medical issues like heart disease.
Preventative tips for dementia
Dementia is a complex condition including genetic, developmental, and environmental factors. There is no approach that can ensure someone will not get dementia. However, there are certain techniques that can help lower the risk:
- Treat hearing loss as soon as possible, since hearing loss correlates with a higher risk of dementia.
- Do not smoke, or quit smoking.
- Get regular exercise, especially in midlife and beyond.
- Remain mentally and socially active by spending time with friends, doing challenging activities, and avoiding isolation.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Schizophrenia management tips
A number of strategies can help a person manage symptoms of schizophrenia. They include:
- Seeking care as soon as symptoms appear.
- Taking antipsychotic medication, and talking with a doctor about whether additional medications might be appropriate.
- Telling a doctor about any unwanted side effects, since additional drugs or changes in medication may help with these symptoms.
- Seeking therapy with a psychotherapist who specializes in schizophrenia.
- Finding support to get a job and integrate into the community. Support groups, occupational training, and peer mentoring may all help.
Schizophrenia can relapse, so it’s important to be aware of the warning indications that your condition is worse. This makes it easy for a person to seek help as soon as possible.
Schizophrenia and dementia are both chronic and incurable conditions. While dementia is lethal, people with schizophrenia can live long lives with the proper medical care and social support.
Getting the appropriate diagnosis can be difficult, especially for people who have symptoms later in life or have a history of cognitive or mental health problems.
To enhance your chances of receiving the correct diagnosis, consult a neurologist with important expertise treating brain problems.