- General Health
CBD Oil for Dementia
CBD has been at the forefront of the media over the last few years. There have been many stories of how CBD is changing the way people manage chronic conditions such as epilepsy and arthritis.
The increased interest in CBD has led to many people questioning whether it could prove to be an effective form of treatment for other illnesses and conditions. CBD for dementia is just one of the many areas that have grabbed people’s attention.
A diagnosis of dementia can be instantly life-changing. It is not surprising that new treatment options cause so much interest in the topic. CBD oil and dementia is still a relatively new area of research, but one that shows a great deal of promise for the future.
So, what do the studies say, and could CBD really help to change the way that we treat dementia in the future?
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of illnesses that are all characterized by a decline in brain function. Most people hear dementia and think of memory loss, but dementia can actually affect many different areas of the brain and its functionality beyond just memory.
Alongside memory, loss of dementia can cause a decline in the brain’s ability to process thoughts. Language skills can also become impaired, making it difficult for a person with dementia to communicate with those around them successfully.
Dementia is also characterized by a change in a person’s personality and mood. Movement can become impaired as the symptoms of dementia worsen, resulting in difficulties carrying out daily tasks.
Alzheimer’s dementia is the most common form of dementia and the one that most people think of when they hear the term. Many people do not realize that there are more than ten different types of dementia and that not all of them are linked to age, and they do not all cause the same symptoms.
Types of Dementia
The word dementia is used to describe an ailment in which the individual experiences memory loss and has difficulty completing routine daily tasks as a result. While people will often be described as having ‘dementia’, this is merely a general term, and what they instead have is one of the many different forms of the condition.
Below are a few of the most common types of dementia and their main symptoms.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a fatal form of dementia that damages the brain at a rapid pace, causing symptoms to worsen much quicker than many other types of dementia.
The early signs that somebody has Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are sudden difficulty remembering events and details within daily life, unexplained changes in behavior, and poor coordination. As the brain becomes increasingly damaged and symptoms worsen, it is common for a person to experience slurred speech and visual disturbances.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a fast-acting form of dementia, with most people dying within a year of first showing symptoms. Towards the end of life, common symptoms include involuntary movements, blindness, loss of balance, and towards the very end, lack of consciousness.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is caused by an abnormal infectious protein, prion, building in excessive levels within the brain, and causing irreversible damage. Despite prions being infectious, they do not respond to antibiotics and antiviral medicines in the same way that other infections do.
There are a few different ways that the protein prion can occur within the brain. One of the main risks comes from consuming meat from an animal that has mad cow disease, which involves a similar protein.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease can also run in families due to a gene that causes prion to build up in the brain. A rare but still possible cause of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is an infection being spread during surgical procedures.
There is currently no cure for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, with treatment very much being focused on managing symptoms.
Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy Body Dementia is one of the most common forms of dementia and occurs most frequently in those over the age of 65. Lewy Body Dementia is what a lot of people think of when they hear of dementia, with symptoms that develop slowly and gradually become worse over the course of many years.
The first signs that a person has Lewy Body Dementia are confusion, hallucinations, and problems following conversations. Over time symptoms worsen, affecting movement, sleep patterns, and a person’s senses. Towards the end of the illness, a person with Lewy Body Dementia is unable to perform basic tasks and is eventually unable to look after themselves.
Lewy Body Dementia is caused by clumps of proteins building up with brain cells preventing the affected cells from functioning correctly. The signals that are sent between brain cells are also affected, causing information to become lost.
What causes proteins to build up within the brain is still not fully understood. The condition can occur in those who have no family history of dementia and who lead a relatively healthy life.
A person with Lewy Body Dementia lives between 6 and 12 years on average after first being diagnosed. There is currently no cure for the condition. However, there are a number of different treatment options to help slow down the rate of mental decline.
Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s Disease
People who have down syndrome are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Down syndrome is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21, which includes the amyloid precursor protein (APP) gene. Over time APP proteins build up in the brain and clump together, affecting brain function.
Signs of Alzheimer’s disease become noticeable around the age of 40. To begin with, symptoms can be mild, with a person seeming to be slightly more forgetful than usual. Over time the buildup of proteins with the brain grows, causing symptoms to become more severe and limiting.
Frontotemporal dementia is a rare form of dementia that causes difficulty with the brain’s ability to process language and alters a person’s behavior.
Unlike many other types of dementia, frontotemporal dementia tends to occur in people over the age of 45. Most people associate dementia with those over 65 and therefore dismiss the early signs of frontotemporal dementia as nothing more than mild changes in behavior.
Frontotemporal dementia is caused by a buildup of proteins in the frontal and temporal lobes within the brain. The location of the proteins is the reason that behavior and language are the main functions affected.
The first symptoms of frontotemporal dementia are unexplained changes in a person’s behavior and forgetfulness. During the early stages of frontotemporal dementia, people may display selfish, unsympathetic, and impulsive behaviors that are out of character.
Over time, a person who has frontotemporal dementia will become uninterested in the world around them. It is common for a person to care less about their hygiene and to appear unmotivated to complete basic daily tasks.
As the condition progresses, language problems, including mixing words up and speaking slowly, become more noticeable. Other symptoms include being easily distracted, struggling to plan and be organized, and increasingly forgetting events.
Basic tasks become increasingly difficult, with patients often losing bladder control, movements becoming stiff and limited, and difficulty swallowing.
There is currently no exact cure for frontotemporal dementia, but there are a number of different treatments that can help to slow down the progression of symptoms.
Huntington’s disease is a progressive genetic condition that causes damage to the brain over time and results in parts of the brain, not being able to function correctly. Huntington’s disease is a fatal condition, eventually causing the body to shut down.
The first signs of Huntington’s disease are noticeable between the ages of 30 and 50, and it can take up to 20 years for the disease to gradually worsen before reaching its peak. There is no cure for the disease and currently no form of treatment that can slow down the rate of degradation. Most treatments are focused on attempting to manage symptoms and teaching coping mechanisms.
Huntington’s disease is characterized by difficulty concentrating, depression, clumsiness, and anxiety performing basic movements. Over time symptoms become more apparent, resulting in even necessary actions such as swallowing becoming challenging. Memory lapses are another familiar sign that Huntington’s disease is progressing.
Mixed dementia refers to when a person is showing signs of two or more different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are, by far, the most common combination, but mixed dementia can include any of the different types of the disease.
There is not one set list of symptoms that can be used to assess whether or not a person has mixed dementia as no two cases are the same. Symptoms will very much depend on the different types of dementia a person has.
As mixed dementia can include so many different types of the disease, there is no timeline that can be used to predict the pace at which symptoms increase or life expectancy. Once a person has been diagnosed with mixed dementia, it then becomes much easier to predict how the disease will progress and which treatments are suitable.
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
Normal pressure hydrocephalus occurs when an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid builds and causes the ventricles within the brain to become enlarged. The buildup of fluid causes damage within the brain and, if left untreated, is fatal.
The initial symptoms include headaches, nausea, blurred vision, and difficulty balancing and walking. Over time, symptoms worsen and begin to resemble many of the common symptoms of dementia, including memory loss and difficulty interacting with others and the physical world around them.
Very little is actually known Normal pressure hydrocephalus as it is a condition that tends to only affect those over the age of 60 and is extremely rare. Normal pressure hydrocephalus can sometimes occur after a stroke, but in the majority of cases, the cause is never discovered.
Posterior Cortical Atrophy
Posterior cortical atrophy is a degenerative condition that causes cells within the posterior of the brain to become damaged over time. While many of the changes that occur within the brain are similar to Alzheimer’s disease, the resulting symptoms can be very different.
The first sign of posterior cortical atrophy is sight-related problems where the brain has trouble trying to interpret the information that it is receiving from the eyes. People experiencing the early symptoms of posterior cortical atrophy may have difficulty recognizing faces and objects. It is also common to have problems understanding numbers and written words.
As posterior cortical atrophy progresses, the symptoms start to match the more common signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Memory loss and confusion are a sign that the condition is worsening.
There is no treatment for Posterior cortical atrophy. However, medication can be used to slow down the progression of the condition.
Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease that causes damage to the nervous system over many years. The most common sign of Parkinson’s disease is impaired movement, but the disease can also impact a person’s mental capacity. When damage to the brain and especially memory occurs, it is referred to as Parkinson’s disease dementia.
The most common symptom of Parkinson’s disease dementia is difficulty remembering in the short term. Over time, delusions, anxiety, and paranoia can occur. People with Parkinson’s disease dementia also commonly have trouble sleeping, which can make symptoms feel even worse.
As Parkinson’s disease dementia progresses, people become increasingly tired during the day, finding it challenging to stay awake for extended periods of time. Difficulty interpreting visual information and slurred speech are also common symptoms.
Vascular dementia is the result of either a heart attack or a stroke that causes a blockage in an artery in the brain. Reduced blood flow to the brain causes damage to areas of the brain and affects a person’s mental function.
Many of the symptoms of vascular dementia are similar to Alzheimer’s disease, including memory loss, a sudden change in mood, and difficulty speaking. Other symptoms that are common with vascular dementia are problems with concentration, difficulty with coordination and walking, and an inability to plan and organize thoughts.
In most people, vascular dementia worsens over time. However, there are a small number of cases where the progression of the disease actually slows down. There is no treatment for vascular dementia and no way to repair the cells that become damaged as a result of the reduced blood flow to the brain.
Korsakoff syndrome is a chronic condition that affects a person’s memory and progresses over the course of many years.
It is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B-1 resulting from alcohol abuse. The condition starts as Wernicke’s encephalopathy, which can come on suddenly after abrupt withdrawal from alcohol. When Wernicke’s encephalopathy is left untreated, it can develop into Korsakoff syndrome.
Korsakoff syndrome can cause damage in multiple areas of the brain and most commonly affects short-term memory and a person’s ability to concentrate. Over time, symptoms become more noticeable and can impact a person’s ability to interact on a social level. An inability to understand how other people are feeling, slow reasoning, and impulsive actions are just a few of the behavioral changes that can occur.
What Is the Leading Cause of Dementia?
There are many different causes for dementia, with each type of dementia having different triggers. The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, is still not fully understood, and research is ongoing to discover exactly what causes it.
Dementia very often occurs due to a buildup of proteins within the brain that either damage cells or prevent cells from communicating. Not all types of dementia are caused by a buildup of proteins, though. Many cases are the result of sudden damage; for example, as a result of a heart attack or stroke.
Some types of dementia are genetic or result from other conditions such as Down syndrome and Huntington’s disease. Other forms of dementia are the result of self-inflicted damage, for example, alcohol abuse.
As there are so many different and varied types of dementia, it is impossible to pinpoint specific causes or groups of triggers that can be prevented.
The 7-Stage Model of Dementia
The 7-stage model of dementia is very often used to assess the progression of an individual case of dementia and to help outline how the disease could progress. Broken down into seven stages, the model outlines each step that a person with dementia is likely to experience before symptoms either peak or the disease becomes fatal.
This stage refers to a normal healthy brain that is not impaired. During stage one, a person does not experience memory loss, confusion, or any of the other common symptoms that occur with dementia.
It is at this stage that very mild cognitive decline occurs. This stage of dementia is very often mistaken for normal memory loss as a result of age. Most people do not even notice that anything is wrong during stage 2 and continue with daily life as usual.
Mild cognitive decline occurs during stage 3, and it is at this point that symptoms start to become noticeable. It is common for close friends and family to pick up on a change in behavior and increased memory loss. The person who has dementia may also notice that they are becoming forgetful, but many people try to deny that anything is wrong.
This stage of dementia is characterized by moderate cognitive decline and is when the early signs of dementia become obvious. Before stage 4, a doctor will have some difficulty making an accurate diagnosis; however, by this point, short term memory becomes so comprised that diagnosis is easy. By stage 4, basic tasks start to become affected, and daily life starts to feel slightly more challenging. Arithmetic skills are one of the common areas of difficulty that becomes obvious at this stage. A person with dementia will also start to forget personal details about themselves and close friends and family.
By stage 5, a person with dementia will normally need help completing basic daily activities. The severe cognitive decline means that they easily become confused and disorientated. It is at this stage that it is deemed unsuitable for a person with dementia to live alone.
Severe cognitive decline makes memory loss much more obvious. A person who has stage 6 dementia will have trouble recognizing family members and close friends. Personality changes are also very common during this stage.
The very severe cognitive decline that occurs in this final stage can leave people almost trapped within their own bodies. Communication becomes limited, with some people completely losing speech and understanding. Systems within the body also start to shut down, resulting in the need for 24-hour care, partly due to increased risk of infection.
Medications for Dementia
There is currently no cure for dementia, and treatment is therefore directed towards slowing down the progression of damage and managing symptoms.
Most medications that are available are used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, as many other forms of the disease are much harder to manage and treat. The two most common medications that are used to treat Alzheimer’s disease are memantine and acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.
Cholinesterase inhibitors is a general term used to refer to a group of drugs used to boost the level of chemical messengers within the brain. Particular attention is placed on the areas of the brain that manage memory and coordination.
The three main cholinesterase inhibitors that are prescribed to those with dementia are donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine. These drugs are mainly used in cases of Alzheimer’s disease, although they can also be used to treat other types of dementia.
While cholinesterase inhibitors can be effective in slowing down the rate at which symptoms progress, they do cause a number of unpleasant side effects. Common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, slowed heart rate, and insomnia. Given the potential side effects, cholinesterase inhibitors are not suitable for everyone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and many people find that the negatives outweigh the positives.
Memantine works by blocking the effects of the chemical glutamate, which builds up within the brain. Memantine tends to be given to patients who are not considered to be suitable for cholinesterase inhibitors. In some cases, patients will be given both drugs as part of their treatment plan.
Memantine is normally prescribed during the later stages of dementia and is used to manage many of the common symptoms of the disease.
The side effects of memantine are not considered to be quite as serious as cholinesterase inhibitors. They tend only to be temporary, making them a much more suitable option for a lot of people.
Therapies for Dementia
As dementia progresses, normal daily tasks become much more challenging. Many people will be offered occupational therapy to help them develop coping mechanisms and to make adjustments that make life a little easier.
An occupational therapist will also help you to assess your home and recommend changes that you can make to enhance safety and accessibility. Making even small changes such as adding a handrail in the bathroom or up the side of the stairs can extend how long a person with dementia is able to stay independent.
Through the use of occupational therapy, a person with dementia and their family are able to plan for the future putting measures in place to deal with worsening symptoms.
Modifying the Environment
As a person with dementia enters the later stages of the disease, it can be a good idea to make adjustments to their surroundings. Removing objects that could pose a safety risk and removing unnecessary stimulation can make life much easier for a person with dementia.
Safety very often becomes a concern when a person with dementia still has enough physical independence to move around their home freely, but only limited mental function. Even basic household objects such as knives and car keys can suddenly become a danger. It is often recommended that these items be removed or hidden so that they are no longer easily accessible.
In more serious cases setting up a monitoring system so that an alert is sent out when a person with dementia wanders beyond a certain point can be a good idea. Such systems help to relieve some of the stress from carriers while also keeping a person with dementia safe.
As mental function deteriorates, it can become increasingly difficult for a person with dementia to process things that are happening around them. Removing clutter and unnecessary items reduces what the brain has to process at one time, making it easier to focus.
A person’s confidence and sense of pride can easily become damaged during the early stages of dementia. It can be difficult for a person who has always been independent to suddenly be unable to complete basic tasks and have to ask for help.
A sense of uselessness can often lead to depression and withdrawal from society. Keeping a person with dementia positive and feeling as though they are in control is extremely important. Breaking down basic tasks into manageable chunks can help to make a person with dementia feel independent.
Creating a set structure and routine can also be useful as it helps to reduce confusion. People with dementia respond positively to set routines as it is much easier for their brain to process.
CBD Oil for Dementia
CBD is well known as a natural anti-inflammatory and is one of the reasons why CBD treatment has become so popular. The effects of reducing inflammation within the brain and its ability to slow down and possibly even prevent the buildup of proteins and damage have become an area of great interest.
It is currently thought that CBD might also be able to prevent damage even when proteins do build up within the brain. As not all types of dementia are caused by the build up of proteins, the extent to which CBD can limit damage varies drastically.
CBD oil and dementia research is not solely focused on whether CBD could potentially prevent damage, but also how it can help a person living with dementia manage symptoms.
People with dementia often suffer from anxiety as a result of not fully understanding the world around them and feeling a lack of control. CBD is commonly used by people who have anxiety as it is thought to reduce and even prevent anxious thoughts.
Most treatments currently available for those who have dementia are focused on the management of symptoms rather than damage prevention. CBD could be used much more widely in the future as a form of medication for managing symptoms, just as many other drugs are used today.
Can CBD Make Dementia Worse?
When considering CBD as a treatment option for patients who have dementia, it is important to understand the differences between CBD and marijuana. It is a common misconception that because CBD can be used to treat a condition, smoking marijuana will also be effective.
Most CBD oils, capsules, and topicals that you see for sale do not contain the cannabinoid THC. It is actually illegal in the US to sell CBD products that contain more than 0.3% THC. The cannabinoid THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects that people associate with smoking marijuana.
THC can very often increase a person’s sense of anxiety, cause paranoid thoughts, and bring on sudden dizzy spells. For a person with dementia, the potential side effects of THC can drastically worsen their symptoms temporarily and cause an increased feeling of anxiety.
While THC and marijuana might not cause permanent damage to a person with dementia can cause a wide array of negative effects that enhance symptoms. When using CBD to treat the symptoms of dementia, it is best to stick to official CBD remedies that have low THC content.
What the Research Says About CBD for Dementia
There have been a number of different studies looking into the effects of CBD oil for dementia and whether it can be used as an effective form of treatment. Most of these studies have been focusing on Alzheimer’s disease and whether CBD can prevent or limit the buildup of proteins within the brain.
The California Salk Institute completed a study in 2017 that found that cannabinoids – and in particular – CBD could help to remove the buildup of proteins from affected brain cells. The buildup of proteins is known to cause inflammation within the brain, leading to cells becoming damaged.
Studies in more recent years have supported the California Salk Institute’s findings. It is thought that CBD can reduce inflammation in the brain, which slows down cell damage. The result of these studies has led to the idea that if CBD treatment is used early enough, inflammation could be prevented before serious damage to cells is able to occur.
A study by Georgia Watt and Tim Karl for the Journal of Frontiers in Pharmacology took the research a step further. The study looked into whether CBD could be used to promote the growth of brain cells.
The study found that CBD was able to slow down the decline of memory and cognitive function in patients with dementia. Over time, cells within the brain were able to repair themselves at a fast enough rate to avoid any long-term damage being caused.
Such studies do show a great deal of hope for the future and the way in which diseases such as Alzheimer’s are treated. The general consensus, however, is that more research is needed to understand the effect CBD has on the brain and whether it can actually be used as an effective long term treatment.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Dementia
The idea of using CBD for dementia is a relatively new idea, and one that still requires a great deal of research. As there are so many types of dementia, it is also important to note that a treatment that works for one person might not necessarily work for someone else.
While there may still be a lot to learn about CBD oil and dementia, one thing is clear, and that is that CBD can effectively be used to help manage symptoms. Most treatment options that are currently available focus on the symptoms of dementia and making life a little easier on a daily basis.
For those who suffer from anxiety as a result of dementia, a small dose of CBD could help to control anxiety attacks and improve quality of life. CBD can also improve a person’s immune system, a part of the body that is very often compromised in dementia patients, preventing infections and illness.
The World Health Organization has stated that “No public health problems have been associated with the use of pure CBD.” And with the growing popularity of CBD as a supplement, there seems to be very little evidence as to why CBD should not be used in dementia patients even if it does have little long term effect.