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  • Dr Ashleigh Bhanjan

Dementia

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Introduction


Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease that affects cognitive function, memory, and behavior. It is a progressive disease that worsens over time and can have a significant impact on the quality of life of those affected.


In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms, severity, and current conventional treatment options for dementia, as well as our expriences, using PBMT.


We will also explore the role of neuroinflammation in the development of neurodegenerative diseases and the use of photobiomodulation therapy in treating neuroinflammation and dementia.



 

Symptoms and Severity of Dementia


Dementia is characterized by a decline in cognitive function, memory, and behavior. The symptoms of dementia can vary depending on the type of dementia and the individual. Some common symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory loss

  • Difficulty communicating

  • Difficulty with daily tasks

  • Confusion and disorientation

  • Mood swings and personality changes

  • Difficulty with problem-solving and decision-making

The severity of dementia can also vary depending on the individual and the type of dementia.


Dementia can be classified into different stages, ranging from mild to severe. In the early stages, individuals may experience mild memory loss and difficulty with daily tasks.


In the later stages, individuals may require assistance with basic activities of daily living, such as eating and dressing.


 

Types of dementia


There are several types of dementia, and some of the most common ones are:

  • Alzheimer's disease: This is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases. It is characterized by the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain, which leads to the death of brain cells and the progressive decline of cognitive function.

  • Vascular dementia: This type of dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, which can be due to a stroke or other conditions that affect the blood vessels in the brain. It is the second most common type of dementia, accounting for 10-20% of cases.

  • Lewy body dementia: This type of dementia is caused by the accumulation of abnormal proteins called Lewy bodies in the brain. It is characterized by fluctuations in cognitive function, visual hallucinations, and movement problems.

  • Frontotemporal dementia: This type of dementia is caused by the degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. It is characterized by changes in personality and behavior, language problems, and difficulty with movement.

  • Mixed dementia: This type of dementia is characterized by the presence of more than one type of dementia, most commonly Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.

  • Young onset dementia: This type of dementia affects people under the age of 65. It can be caused by any of the types of dementia listed above.

There are also rarer types of dementia, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington's disease, and HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder
 

Conventional Treatment Options for Dementia



There is currently no cure for dementia, but there are conventional treatment options that can help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Some common treatment options for dementia include:

  • Medications: Medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine can help manage the symptoms of dementia and improve cognitive function.

  • Therapy: Therapy can help individuals with dementia manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Some common types of therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy and occupational therapy.

  • Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and social engagement can help improve cognitive function and slow the progression of dementia.


 

Neuroinflammation and Dementia


Neuroinflammation is a process in which the immune system responds to damage or injury in the brain. While neuroinflammation is a normal response to injury, chronic neuroinflammation can contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.


Chronic neuroinflammation can lead to the accumulation of toxic proteins in the brain, which can damage neurons and contribute to cognitive decline.


 

Photobiomodulation Therapy for Dementia


Photobiomodulation therapy (PBM) is a non-invasive therapy that uses red or near-infrared light to stimulate healing, relieve pain and inflammation, and improve cognitive function. PBM has been shown to have potential in treating neuroinflammation and dementia.


Several studies have shown that PBM can improve cognitive function in individuals with mild to moderately severe dementia




 

Latest Scientific Review and Randomized Controlled Trials


A recent scientific review titled "Therapeutic Effects of Low-Level Laser Therapy on Cognitive Symptoms of Patients with Dementia: A Double-Blinded Randomized Clinical Trial" sheds light on the efficacy of LLLT in improving cognitive symptoms in patients with dementia.


The study, a double-blinded randomized clinical trial, aimed to investigate the effects of LLLT as a non-pharmacological intervention for dementia.


In this study, 32 patients with dementia were randomly divided into two groups: the LLLT group and the sham group. The LLLT group underwent transcranial LLLT, while the sham group received a zero-intensity laser treatment. The patients' cognitive functions were evaluated using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) tests at baseline, 2 weeks, and 8 weeks post-intervention.


The results of the study demonstrated significant improvements in cognitive symptoms in the LLLT group compared to the sham group. The rate of change of MMSE scores showed a statistically significant difference between the two groups at both 2 weeks and 8 weeks post-intervention. Additionally, the mean scores of CDR in the LLLT group remained relatively stable throughout the study.



LLLT : Efficacy and Application


The findings of this randomized controlled trial provide promising evidence for the efficacy of low-level laser therapy in improving cognitive symptoms in patients with dementia. LLLT has the potential to serve as a non-invasive and non-pharmacological treatment option, which could complement existing interventions or be used independently.


It is important to note that while the initial results are promising, further research is needed to better understand the optimal treatment protocols, dosage, and long-term effects of LLLT in dementia.


The study sample size was relatively small, and the follow-up period was limited.


Future studies should aim for larger sample sizes, longer follow-up durations, and explore the effects of LLLT in different stages and types of dementia.


 

Why Neuroprotection is VITAL in Dementia


Neuroprotection is defined as the ability for a therapy to prevent neuronal cell death by intervening in and inhibiting the pathogenetic cascade that results in cell dysfunction and eventual death.
 

The potential neuroprotective treatment options for patients with dementia

There are several potential neuroprotective treatment options for patients with dementia. These include:

  • Medications : Cholinesterase inhibitors such as donepezil (Aricept) and memantine (Namenda) are the only medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of dementia. These medications can improve thinking skills and memory for people with dementia for a short time.

  • Non-pharmacological treatment : Non-pharmacological treatments (NPT) include a wide range of approaches and techniques that may play a role in the treatment of dementia. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, physical exercise, and mental activity.

  • Lifestyle changes : Epidemiological studies suggest that dietary measures, physical exercise, and mental activity may reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease.

  • Neuroprotective agents : There are several neuroprotective agents that have been studied for their potential to slow the progression of dementia. These include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and ginkgo biloba.

  • Photobiomodulation therapy : Photobiomodulation therapy (PBM) is a non-invasive therapy that uses red or near-infrared light to stimulate healing, relieve pain and inflammation, and improve cognitive function. PBM has been shown to have potential in treating neuroinflammation and dementia.

It is important to note that there is currently no cure for dementia, and treatment options are aimed at managing symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease.



 

Are there any dietary measures, physical exercise, or mental activities that can help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's

Yes, there are several dietary measures, physical exercise, and mental activities that can help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. Here are some of them:

  • Regular physical exercise: Several studies have shown that regular physical exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Exercise has many known benefits for both physical and mental health, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, strengthening the bones and muscles, and reducing stress. Physical activity is one of the known modifiable risk factors for dementia.


  • Mental activity: Engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as reading, playing games, and learning new skills can help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. Studies have found that older adults who participate in more intellectually challenging daily activities show less decline over time on various tests of cognitive performance.


  • Healthy diet: A healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats may help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. Some studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats, may be particularly beneficial for brain health.


  • Social engagement: Social engagement and staying connected with others can help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease1. Social activities such as volunteering, joining clubs, and spending time with friends and family can help keep the brain active and healthy.

It is important to note that while these measures may help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease, they are not a guarantee and there is no surefire way to prevent these conditions.



 

Our Experience, using PBMT




In our experiences, using PBMT for patients with dementia, we have noticed a significant improvement in memory scores, Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), fatigue, sleep as well as mood as early as 4-6 weeks, after commencing PBMT.

The changes and improvements are sustained as long as patients are on a long term maintenance therapy program, as it seems to be neuroprotective, in nature.



 

The Future of Low-Level Laser Therapy in Dementia Treatment


Dementia is a progressive disease that can have a significant impact on the quality of life of those affected.


While there is currently no cure for dementia, conventional treatment options can help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.


Neuroinflammation is a process that can contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.

Photobiomodulation therapy is a non-invasive therapy that has shown potential in treating neuroinflammation and improving cognitive function in individuals with dementia.

The potential of low-level laser therapy in the field of dementia treatment is encouraging, and it opens avenues for future research and clinical applications. Researchers are already exploring the combination of LLLT with other interventions such as cognitive training, physical exercise, or pharmacotherapy to enhance therapeutic outcomes.


In addition to its use as a standalone treatment, LLLT could also be integrated into a multidisciplinary approach to dementia care. By combining various non-pharmacological interventions, personalized treatment plans can be developed to address the specific needs of each patient.


Furthermore, advancements in technology and the development of portable LLLT devices may allow for home-based treatments, improving accessibility and reducing the burden on healthcare facilities.


However, careful monitoring and supervision are necessary to ensure safe and effective use.


In conclusion, low-level laser therapy shows promise as a non-pharmacological intervention for improving cognitive symptoms in patients with dementia. The results from recent randomized controlled trials support its efficacy in enhancing cognitive function.


Further research and larger-scale trials are needed to establish optimal treatment protocols, explore its effects in different types of dementia, and assess its long-term benefits.


With ongoing advancements, low-level laser therapy holds potential to contribute to the management and care of individuals living with dementia.


 

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