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Dementia: Introduction

Dementia is a neurodegenerative condition of the brain in which there is a progressive and permanent loss of cognitive and mental performance. This includes loss of memory and impairment of brain function in such areas as language, intellect, judgement, and behavior. Dementia is common in the elderly and is a very common cause of disability, institutionalization, and death in this population.

Dementia can be caused by a wide variety of conditions or diseases. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, which progressively damages and destroys such cognitive processes as memory, orientation, and speech. The second most common cause of dementia is vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is due to the death (necrosis) of brain tissue because of clots that obstruct blood vessels in the brain. Vascular dementia is caused by such diseases and conditions as TIA (transient ischemic attack) or stroke or risk factors for stroke, such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, peripheral vascular disease, and diabetes. Less common causes of dementia include Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, thyroid diseases, brain tumor, vitamin B deficiency, AIDS, syphilis, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, alcoholism, hydrocephalus, depression, and chronic subdural hematoma. Symptoms of dementia vary depending on severity, underlying cause, age, medical history, and coexisting diseases, and other factors. Symptoms can include forgetfulness and other problems with memory that become progressively worse. Disorientation, poor judgement, speech difficulties, personality changes, and difficulty completing familiar tasks also occur. Symptoms of dementia can eventually progress to become severely disabling. For more details on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of dementia. Risk factors for developing dementia include being over age 65 and having a family history of Alzheimer's disease. Other risk factors include a history of severe head injury, alcoholism, and having diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other types of coronary artery disease or cardiovascular disease. There is no specific diagnostic test that can detect dementia and its underlying cause. Making a diagnosis includes performing a variety of tests and assessments that evaluate the brain, as well as cognitive and intellectual function. Tests are also performed to diagnose possible underlying causes of dementia. Diagnosis and treatment may require the collaboration of a variety of providers, including a primary care physician, neurologist, psychiatrist, and/or psychologist. The diagnostic process begins with taking a thorough personal and family history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. This includes a neurological exam. A neurological exam evaluates the nerves and nervous system and such functions as reflexes, sensation, movement, balance, coordination, vision, and hearing. Commonly used diagnostic tests include a mini-mental state examination (MMSE), which evaluates mental function by assessing the answers provided to a series of questions. Imaging tests that may be used to help diagnose underlying causes of dementia include CT and MRI, which provide information about the structure of the brain. A PET scan and functional MRI are imaging tests that can show how well different areas of the brain are functioning. It is possible that a diagnosis of dementia can be missed or delayed because symptoms may develop gradually and can be similar to symptoms of other diseases and conditions. In addition, it is common for people to believe that symptoms of dementia are due to the normal aging process. For more information about diseases and conditions that can mimic dementia, refer to misdiagnosis of dementia. Treatment of dementia varies depending on the underlying cause and other factors. Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia are not curable, and at this time there are no treatments that can slow the advancement of these common causes of dementia. However, there are some interventions and medications that may help to reduce some symptoms and maximize independence and the quality of life for people with Alzheimer's disease. There are also clinical trials taking place to research a variety of potential treatments for Alzheimer's disease. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of dementia....more »

Dementia: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of dementia may be delayed or missed because early symptoms develop gradually and are often associated with the normal aging process. In addition, symptoms of dementia can mimic symptoms of a variety of diseases, disorders or conditions, such as depression, TIA, stroke, psychosis, and delirium, which can all accompany dementia ...more misdiagnosis »

Causes of Dementia:

The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Dementia. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.

» Review Causes of Dementia: Causes | Symptom Checker » | Assessment Questionnaire »

Home Diagnostic Testing and Dementia

Home medical tests possibly related to Dementia:

Causes of Types of Dementia:

Review the causes of these more specific types of Dementia:

Dementia: Symptom Checker

Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Dementia, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.

Symptom Checker

Symptom Checker

Dementia Treatments

Treatment of dementia begins with the prevention of avoidable causes of dementia, such as alcoholism, vitamin B deficiency, type ll diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and atherosclerosis. This includes not smoking, not drinking alcohol to excess, and eating a heart-healthy diet that is low in saturated fats and processed carbohydrates and high in unprocessed whole ...Dementia Treatments

Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Dementia may include:

Review further information on Dementia Treatments.

Alternative Treatments for Dementia

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed as possibly helpful for Dementia may include:

Stories from Users for Dementia

Real-life user stories relating to Dementia:

Message Boards for Dementia

Symptom specific forums: The following patient stories in our interactive forums and message boards relate to Dementia or relevant symptoms:

Diagnostic tests for Dementia:

Various tests are used in the diagnosis of Dementia. Some of these are listed below :

  • General appearance
    • Looking for any dysmorphic ( abnormality of shape) features of face and body - e.g. Down syndrome, Cornelia de Lange syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Soto's syndrome - may suggest intellectual disturbance rather than dementia.
  • Physical examination
    • Examine for signs that symptoms may be due to delirium rather than dementia - e.g. temperature, neck stiffness (may suggest meningitis or subarachnoid hemorrhage), neurological examination to look for focal neurological signs and papilledema.
    • If suspect multi-infarct dementia, examine for signs of vascular pathology e.g. high blood pressure, signs of previous strokes
    • Mini-mental state examination - if dementia is suspected test memory and cognitive function.
  • Blood tests
  • more tests...»

Dementia: Animations

Medications or substances causing Dementia:

The following drugs, medications, substances or toxins are some of the possible causes of Dementia as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.

Drug interactions causing Dementia:

When combined, certain drugs, medications, substances or toxins may react causing Dementia as a symptom. Always advise your doctor of any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription, over-the-counter, supplements, herbal or alternative treatments.

  • Methyldopa and Haloperidol interaction
  • Fluphenazine and Clonidine interaction
  • Plendil and Grapefruit Juice interaction
  • Procardia and Grapefruit Juice interaction
  • Seldane and Grapefruit Juice interaction
  • Sandimmune and Grapefruit Juice interaction
  • Haloperidol and Methyldopa interaction - Serious dementia
  • more interactions...»

Dementia: Comorbid Symptoms

Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Dementia may include these symptoms:

Causes of General Symptom Types

Research the causes of these more general types of symptom:

Research the causes of related medical symptoms such as:

Causes of Similar Symptoms to Dementia

Research the causes of these symptoms that are similar to, or related to, the symptom Dementia:

Assessment Questionnaire: Questions your doctor may ask (and why!)

During a consultation, your doctor will use various techniques to assess the symptom: Dementia. These will include a physical examination and possibly diagnostic tests. (Note: A physical exam is always done, diagnostic tests may or may not be performed depending on the suspected condition) Your doctor will ask several questions when assessing your condition. It is important to openly share any pertinent information to help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

It is also very important to bring an up-to-date list of all of your all medical conditions, medications including dosages, and names of numbers of any specialist you see.

Create your printable checklist here.

See Dementia Assessment Questionnaire (16 listings)

Dementia: Deaths

Read more about causes and Dementia deaths.

Misdiagnosis and Dementia

Undiagnosed stroke leads to misdiagnosed aphasia: BBC News UK reported on a man who had been institutionalized and treated for mental illness because he suffered from sudden inability to speak. This was initially misdiagnosed as a "nervous breakdown" and more »

Alzheimer's disease over-diagnosed: The well-known disease of Alzheimer's disease is often over-diagnosed. Patients tend to assume that any memory loss or forgetulness symptom might be Alzheimer's, whereas there more »

Dementia may be a drug interaction: A common scenario in aged care is for a patient to show mental decline to dementia. Whereas this can, of course, occur due to various medical conditions, such as a stroke or Alzheimer's disease, it can also occur from a more »

Tremor need not be Parkinson's disease: There is the tendency to believe that any tremor symptom, or shakiness, means Parkinson's disease. The reality is that there are various possibilities, such as more »

ADHD under-diagnosed in adults: Although the over-diagnoses of ADHD in children is a well-known controversy, the reverse side related to adults. Some adults can remain undiagnosed, and indeed more »

Rare diseases misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease: A rare genetic disorder is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease for men in their 50's. The disease Fragile X disorder can show only more »

Bipolar disorder misdiagosed as various conditions by primary physicians: Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder) often fails to be diagnosed correctly by primary care physicians. Many patients with bipolar seek help from more »

Eating disorders under-diagnosed in men: The typical patient with an eating disorder is female. The result is that men with eating disorders often fail to be diagnosed or have a delayed diagnosis. See misdiagnosis of eating disorders or more »

Depression undiagnosed in teenagers: Serious bouts of depression can be undiagnosed in teenagers. The "normal" moodiness of teenagers can cause severe medical depression to be overlooked. See misdiagnosis of depression or symptoms of more »

Brain pressure condition often misdiagnosed as dementia: A condition that results from an excessive pressure of CSF within the brain is often misdiagnosed. It may be misdiagnosed as Parkinson' more »

Undiagnosed anxiety disorders related to depression: Patients with depression (see symptoms of depression) may also have undiagnosed anxiety disorders (see symptoms more »

Dementia: Research Related Doctors & Specialists

Other ways to find a doctor, or use doctor, physician and specialist online research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Dementia

Research extensive quality ratings and patient safety measures for hospitals, clinics and medical facilities in health specialties related to Dementia:

Dementia: Related Rare Diseases

Rare types of medical conditions and diseases in related medical categories:

Dementia: Undiagnosed Conditions

Conditions that are commonly undiagnosed in related areas may include:

Causes of Dementia listed in Disease Database:

Other medical conditions listed in the Disease Database as possible causes of Dementia as a symptom include:

Article Excerpts about Dementia

Dementia is characterized significant loss of intellectual abilities such as memory capacity, severe enough to interfere with social or occupational functioning. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in older people. (Source: excerpt from Aging -- Women Getting Older: NWHIC)

People who have serious changes in their memory, personality, and behavior may suffer from a form of brain disease called dementia. Dementia seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities. Alzheimer's disease is one of many types of dementia. (Source: excerpt from Clinical Trials Alzheimer''s Disease and Related Disorders: NIMH)

Dementia is characterized significant loss of intellectual abilities such as memory capacity,... (Source: excerpt from Aging -- Women Getting Older: NWHIC)

People who have serious changes in their memory, personality, and behavior may suffer ... (Source: excerpt from Clinical Trials Alzheimer''s Disease and Related Disorders: NIMH)

Definitions of Dementia:

Brain damage which has persisted over a long period of time.
- (Source - Diseases Database)

Mental deterioration of organic or functional origin
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)

Loss of intellectual functions such as memory, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and abstract thinking while vegetative functions remain intact.
- (Source - CRISP)

Organs affected by Dementia:

The list of organs typically affected by Dementia may include, but is not limited to:

Detailed list of causes of Dementia

The list below shows some of the causes of Dementia mentioned in various sources:

How Common are these Causes of Dementia?

This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Dementia. Of the 394 causes of Dementia that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:

  • 1 causes are "very common" diseases
  • 5 causes are "common" diseases
  • 7 causes are "uncommon" diseases
  • 10 causes are "rare" diseases
  • 12 causes are "very rare" diseases
  • 370 causes have no prevalence information.

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Dementia:

The following list of conditions have 'Dementia' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Dementia or choose View All.

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Conditions listing medical complications: Dementia:

The following list of medical conditions have Dementia or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.




  • Down Syndrome ... dementia, Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimer's like condition




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Causes of Dementia Based on Risk Factors

This information shows analysis of the list of causes of Dementia based on whether certain risk factors apply to the patient:

  • Travel - has the patient travelled recently?
  • Diabetes - history of diabetes or family history of diabetes?

    Doctors and specialists: Who should I consult about Dementia?

    Depending on the seriousness of the onset of Dementia, you may want to consult one of the following medical professionals.

    Important:In extreme cases, always seek advice from emergency services :

    What are the alternative names for Dementia:

    Chronic brain failure
    - (Source - Diseases Database)

    Classifications of Dementia:

    Subtypes of Dementia:

    Alzheimer's-like symptoms (32 causes), Alzheimer's disease (2 causes), Progressive dementia (65 causes), Short-term memory loss (22 causes), Poor memory (25 causes), Loss of memory (51 causes), Temporary memory loss (13 causes), Mild episodes of Alzheimers-like symptoms (4 causes), Intermittent Alzheimers-like memory loss (4 causes), Severe Alzheimers-like concentration difficulty (12 causes), Alzheimers-like memory loss (8 causes), Acute Alzheimers-like concentration difficulty (9 causes), Mild Alzheimers-like memory loss (4 causes), Chronic Alzheimers-like concentration difficulty (9 causes), Intermittent Alzheimers-like symptoms (4 causes), Mild Alzheimers-like symptoms (4 causes), Intermittent Alzheimers-like concentration difficulty (7 causes), Alzheimers-like concentration difficulty (11 causes), Recurring Alzheimers-like confusion symptoms (13 causes), Mild Alzheimers-like concentration difficulty (6 causes), Severe Alzheimers-like confusion symptoms (22 causes), Recurring episodes of Alzheimers-like symptoms (7 causes), Acute Alzheimers-like confusion symptoms (14 causes), Chronic Alzheimers-like confusion symptoms (18 causes), Severe episodes of Alzheimers-like symptoms (10 causes), Recurring Alzheimers-like memory loss (5 causes), Acute episodes of Alzheimers-like symptoms (10 causes), Chronic episodes of Alzheimers-like symptoms (7 causes), Severe Alzheimers-like memory loss (8 causes), Acute Alzheimers-like memory loss (8 causes), Recurring Alzheimers-like symptoms (6 causes), Chronic Alzheimers-like memory loss (6 causes), Intermittent Alzheimers-like confusion symptoms (13 causes), Severe Alzheimers-like symptoms (8 causes), Alzheimers-like confusion symptoms (22 causes), Acute Alzheimers-like symptoms (8 causes), Mild Alzheimers-like confusion symptoms (10 causes), Intermittent episodes of Alzheimers-like symptoms (4 causes), Chronic Alzheimers-like symptoms (5 causes), Confusion symptoms (643 causes), Recurring Alzheimers-like concentration difficulty (11 causes), Episodes of Alzheimers-like symptoms (8 causes), Delirium tremens (2 causes), Confusion leading to stupor (42 causes), Slowly resolving confusion (16 causes), Severe confusion (42 causes), Slight confusion (42 causes), Progressive confusion in pregnancy (19 causes), Transient delirium (48 causes), Intermittent delirium (21 causes), Delirium (381 causes), Intermittent confusion (17 causes), Confusion (780 causes), Irreversible confusion (8 causes), Sudden onset of confusion in children (18 causes), Delirium in children (46 causes), Temporary confusion (34 causes), Confusion in children (28 causes), Progressive confusion (49 causes), Unresponsiveness (44 causes), Level of consciousness, decreased (11 causes), Reduced alertness (12 causes)

    Medical Conditions associated with Dementia:

    Mental problems (3121 causes), Behavioral symptoms (4608 causes), Personality symptoms (4029 causes), Cognitive symptoms (3664 causes), Memory symptoms (523 causes), Brain symptoms (2787 causes), Neurological symptoms (9575 causes), Nerve symptoms (9132 causes), Head symptoms (10192 causes)

    Symptoms related to Dementia:

    Confusion (780 causes), Alzheimer's disease (2 causes), Stroke (192 causes), Multi-Infarct Dementia (8 causes), Dementia With Lewy Bodies, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease (2 causes), Down syndrome, Akinetic-rigid syndromes, Pick's disease, Vascular dementia

    Medical articles on signs and symptoms:

    Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:

    These general medical articles may be of interest:

    Medical News summaries about Dementia

    Our news pages contain the following medical news summaries about Dementia and many other medical conditions:

    Related medical articles from our Disease Center for Dementia:

    More Ways To Research Medical Signs and Symptoms:


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