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(A-Z listing includes diseases, conditions, tests and procedures)


What You Need to Know About Dementia

  • Dementia is a general term impaired thinking, remembering or reasoning that can affect a person’s ability to function safely. The term has been replaced by “major neurocognitive disorder” and “mild cognitive disorder” in medical terminology.

  • Dementia symptoms may be confused with symptoms of depression or other mood disorders

  • Dementia is not a normal consequence of aging.

  • The condition has many causes, so patients with signs or symptoms of dementia should get a comprehensive examination to determine the underlying diagnosis.

  • There are not direct therapies for most types of dementia, but some conditions, such as normal pressure hydrocephalus, can be treatable. For the remainder, drugs may make symptoms more manageable.

Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia may involve a range of progressive symptoms, depending on its cause:

  • Mood and personality changes

  • Difficulty with words and language

  • Poor judgment

  • Confusion regarding familiar places and time, date and season

  • Inability to concentrate or think clearly

  • Difficulties with gait or balance

  • Increased daytime sleepiness

  • Apathy

  • Visual hallucinations

What are the different types of dementia?

Dementia may be caused by several other conditions and diseases, including:

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes memory loss, confusion, and changes in personality. The course is gradual and includes seven stages. At present, Alzheimer’s dementia is not curable, but medications may help manage symptoms.

How Do You Know If You Have Alzheimer's Disease?

Peter Rabins, M.D., reviews the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and provides insight on when to get a professional evaluation. Watch now.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia (VaD) is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease and is caused by damage to brain tissue due to decreased blood flow. Strokes, mini-strokes (TIAs) and congestive heart failure can be the root causes of these conditions.

Corticobasal Degeneration

This is a rare atypical Parkinsonian disorder that typically affects one side of the body more than the other. Affected patients may have difficulty seeing and navigating through space.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

A rare, fatal brain disorder, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease causes a rapid, progressive dementia (deterioration of mental functions) and associated neuromuscular disturbances.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Dementia with Lewy Bodies is a rare atypical Parkinsonian disorder characterized by an abnormal accumulation of alpha-synuclein protein in brain cells.

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a group of disorders that occur when the nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are damaged, causing the lobes to shrink.

HIV Dementia

HIV-associated dementia is a serious consequence of HIV infection and is typically seen in advanced stages of the disease.

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is a brain disorder in which brain cells, or neurons, in certain areas of the brain start to break down, eventually leading to emotional disturbances, loss of intellectual abilities and uncontrolled movements.

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Normal pressure hydrocephalus is caused by excessive cerebrospinal fluid in the brain’s ventricles, which can cause symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. Draining the excess fluid may arrest or improve the condition.

Other Conditions

Other conditions can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms, including:

  • Stroke or mini-stroke (TIA)

  • Congestive heart failure

  • Reactions to medications

  • Metabolic problems

  • Endocrine abnormalities

  • Nutritional deficiencies

  • Infections

  • Brain tumors

  • Oxygen deprivation

  • Heart and lung problems

#TomorrowsDiscoveries: The Science Behind Memory Formation—Dr. Richard Huganir

Unique synapses within our brains encode new memories. See how studies on the molecular basis of memory formation can help researchers find new therapies for Alzheimer’s, age-related dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and autism. Learn more about Dr. Huganir’s work

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