Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — to such an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person's functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of living.
Dementia is more common as people grow older (about one-third of all people age 85 or older may have some form of dementia) but it is not a normal part of aging. Many people live into their 90s and beyond without any signs of dementia.
There are several different forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. A person’s symptoms can vary depending on the type.
What are the signs and symptoms of dementia?
Signs and symptoms of dementia result when once-healthy neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die. While everyone loses some neurons as they age, people with dementia experience far greater loss.
The symptoms of dementia can vary and may include:
- Experiencing memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion
- Difficulty speaking, understanding and expressing thoughts, or reading and writing
- Wandering and getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
- Trouble handling money responsibly and paying bills
- Repeating questions
- Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
- Losing interest in normal daily activities or events
- Hallucinating or experiencing delusions or paranoia
- Acting impulsively
- Not caring about other people’s feelings
- Losing balance and problems with movement
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities can also develop dementia as they age, and recognizing their symptoms can be particularly difficult. It’s important to consider a person’s current abilities and to monitor for changes over time that could signal dementia.
What causes dementia?
The causes of Alzheimer’s and related dementias can vary, depending on the types of brain changes that may be taking place. While research has found that some changes in the brain are linked to certain forms of dementia, in most cases, the underlying causes are unknown. Rare genetic mutations may cause dementia in a relatively small number of people.
Although there is no proven prevention, in general, leading a healthy lifestyle may help reduce risk factors that have been associated with these diseases.
What are the different types of dementia?
Various disorders and factors contribute to the development of dementia. Neurodegenerative disorders result in a progressive and irreversible loss of neurons and brain functioning. Currently, there are no cures for these diseases.
The five most common forms of dementia are:
- Alzheimer’s disease, the most common dementia diagnosis among older adults. It is caused by changes in the brain, including abnormal buildups of proteins, known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
- Frontotemporal dementia, a rare form of dementia that tends to occur in people younger than 60. It is associated with abnormal amounts or forms of the proteins tau and TDP-43.
- Lewy body dementia, a form of dementia caused by abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies.
- Vascular dementia, a form of dementia caused by conditions that damage blood vessels in the brain or interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
- Mixed dementia, a combination of two or more types of dementia.
Other conditions that cause dementia-like symptoms can be halted or even reversed with treatment. For example, normal pressure hydrocephalus, an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, often resolves with treatment.
In addition, medical conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, and delirium can cause serious memory problems that resemble dementia, as can side effects of certain medicines.
Researchers have also identified many other conditions that can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms. These conditions include:
- Argyrophilic grain disease, a common, late-onset degenerative disease
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare brain disorder
- Huntington's disease, an inherited, progressive brain disease
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by repeatedtraumatic brain injury
- HIV-associated dementia, a rare disease that occurs when the HIV virus spreads to the brain
The overlap in symptoms of various dementias can make it difficult to get an accurate diagnosis. But a proper diagnosis is important to get the best treatment.
How is dementia diagnosed?
To diagnose dementia, doctors first assess whether a person has an underlying, potentially treatable, condition that may relate to cognitive difficulties. A physical exam to measure blood pressure and other vital signs, as well as laboratory tests of blood and other fluids to check levels of various chemicals, hormones, and vitamins, can help uncover or rule out possible causes of symptoms.
A review of a person’s medical and family history can provide important clues about risk for dementia. Typical questions might include asking about whether dementia runs in the family, how and when symptoms began, changes in behavior and personality, and if the person is taking certain medications that might cause or worsen symptoms.
The following procedures also may be used to diagnose dementia:
- Cognitive and neurological tests. These tests are used to assess thinking and physical functioning. These include assessments of memory, problem solving, language skills, and math skills, as well as balance, sensory response, and reflexes.
- Brain scans. These tests can identify strokes, tumors, and other problems that can cause dementia. Scans also identify changes in the brain's structure and function. The most common scans are:
- Computed tomography (CT), which uses X-rays to produce images of the brain and other organs
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of body structures, including tissues, organs, bones, and nerves
- Positron emission tomography (PET), which uses radiation to provide pictures of brain activity
- Psychiatric evaluation. This evaluation will help determine if depression or another mental health condition is causing or contributing to a person's symptoms.
- Genetic tests. Some dementias are caused by a person’s genes. In these cases, a genetic test can help people know if they are at risk for dementia. It is important to talk with a genetic counselor before and after getting tested, along with family members and the doctor.
- Blood tests. It is now possible for doctors to order a blood test to measure levels of beta-amyloid, a protein that accumulates abnormally in people with Alzheimer’s. Several other blood tests are in development. However, the availability of these diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s and related dementias is still limited.
Early detection of symptoms is important, as some causes can be treated. However, in many cases, the cause of dementia is unknown and cannot be treated. Still, obtaining an early diagnosis can help with managing the condition and planning ahead.
Sometimes, a person with dementia will agree to donate their brain. Brain donation helps researchers study brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, which affect millions of people. By studying the brains of people who have died, researchers learn more about how types of dementia affect the brain and how we might better treat and prevent them. When donating as part of a research study or to the NIH NeuroBioBank, there is no cost to the family for the donation and an autopsy report.
Who can diagnose dementia?
Visiting a primary care doctor is often the first step for people who are experiencing changes in thinking, movement, or behavior. However, neurologists — doctors who specialize in disorders of the brain and nervous system — are often consulted to diagnose dementia. Geriatric psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, and geriatricians may also be able to diagnose dementia. Your doctor can help you find a specialist.
If a specialist cannot be found in your community, contact the nearest medical school neurology department for a referral. A medical school hospital also may have a dementia clinic that provides expert evaluation. You can also visit the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers directory to see if there is an NIA-funded center near you. These centers can help with obtaining a diagnosis and medical management of conditions.
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The NIA ADEAR Center offers information and free print publications about Alzheimer’s and related dementias for families, caregivers, and health professionals. ADEAR Center staff answer telephone, email, and written requests and make referrals to local and national resources.
Explore the Alzheimers.gov portal for information and resources on Alzheimer’s and related dementias from across the federal government.
This content is provided by the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure it is accurate and up to date.
Content reviewed: July 02, 2021
The symptoms of dementia can vary and may include: Experiencing memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion. Difficulty speaking, understanding and expressing thoughts, or reading and writing. Wandering and getting lost in a familiar neighborhood. Trouble handling money responsibly and paying bills.
- Alzheimer's disease.
- Vascular dementia.
- Lewy Body Disease.
- Frontotemporal dementia.
- Alcohol related dementia.
- Down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease.
- HIV associated dementia.
- Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) dementia.
- Alzheimer's Disease. This is the most common type of dementia. ...
- Lewy Body Dementia (or Dementia with Lewy Bodies). Lewy Body Dementia is another very common, yet frequently misdiagnosed, or undiagnosed type of dementia. ...
- Vascular Dementia. ...
- Fronto Temporal Dementia.
Worldwide, around 55 million people have dementia, with over 60% living in low- and middle-income countries. As the proportion of older people in the population is increasing in nearly every country, this number is expected to rise to 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050.
Dementia is caused by damage to or changes in the brain. Common causes of dementia are: Alzheimer's disease. This is the most common cause of dementia.
- Limited education — continually learning improves brain function.
- Hearing loss or loss of smell.
- Hypertension/high cholesterol.
- Alcohol use.
- Head injuries (especially multiple injuries)
Dementia is a general term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is caused by physical changes in the brain. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia, but there are many kinds.
- Vascular dementia.
- Lewy body dementia.
- Mixed dementia.
Dementia is not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia. Though dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging.
Like other types of dementia that destroy brain cells, dementia with Lewy bodies gets worse over time and shortens lifespan.
There is currently no "cure" for dementia. In fact, because dementia is caused by different diseases it is unlikely that there will be a single cure for dementia. Research is aimed at finding cures for dementia-causing diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies.
Cognitive stimulation therapy
It is currently the only psychological dementia treatment directly recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to help people with mild or moderate dementia.
Changes in behaviour tend to start from the middle stage of dementia. These changes are common and individual symptoms may come and go. Changes in behaviour are some of the most challenging symptoms for people with dementia and for those who support them.
Dementia is not a disease. It's a decline in the ability to reason, communicate, remember, and function in life. While dementia itself may not cause death, the result of progressive brain disorders eventually cause death.
A new blood testing technique could help researchers detect Alzheimer's disease prior to onset or in those showing early signs of dementia. The approach could be less invasive and costly than current brain imaging and spinal fluid tests, enabling earlier treatments and testing of novel approaches.
It can help people with dementia to have access to relevant information, resources and support, make the most of their abilities and potentially benefit from drug and non-drug treatments available. An early diagnosis gives someone the chance to explain to family and friends the changes happening in their life.
While dementia is a general term, Alzheimer's disease is a specific brain disease. It is marked by symptoms of dementia that gradually get worse over time. Alzheimer's disease first affects the part of the brain associated with learning, so early symptoms often include changes in memory, thinking and reasoning skills.
The middle stages of dementia are when anger and aggression are most likely to start occurring as symptoms, along with other worrying habits like wandering, hoarding, and compulsive behaviors that may seem unusual.
Like other types of dementia that destroy brain cells, dementia with Lewy bodies gets worse over time and shortens lifespan.
- Being unable to move around on one's own.
- Being unable to speak or make oneself understood.
- Eating problems such as difficulty swallowing.
Dementia is more common as people grow older (about one-third of all people age 85 or older may have some form of dementia) but it is not a normal part of aging.. Frontotemporal dementia , a rare form of dementia that tends to occur in people younger than 60.. Lewy body dementia , a form of dementia caused by abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies.. Vascular dementia , a form of dementia caused by conditions that damage blood vessels in the brain or interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.. Mixed dementia, a combination of two or more types of dementia.. It is common for people with dementia to have more than one form of dementia.. For example, many people with dementia have both Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.. Researchers who have conducted autopsy studies have looked at the brains of people who had dementia, and have suggested that most people age 80 and older probably have mixed dementia caused by a combination of brain changes related to Alzheimer's disease,vascular disease-related processes , or another condition that involves the loss of nerve cell function or structure and nerve cell death (called neurodegeneration).. Brain donation helps researchers study brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, which affect millions of people.. By studying the brains of people who have died, researchers learn more about how types of dementia affect the brain and how we might better treat and prevent them.. NIA Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center 800-438-4380 email@example.com/alzheimers The NIA ADEAR Center offers information and free print publications about Alzheimer’s and related dementias for families, caregivers, and health professionals.
Signs and symptoms of dementia result when once-healthy neurons (nerve cells) in the brain stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die.. While dementia is more common as people grow older (up to half of all people age 85 or older may have some form of dementia), it is not a normal part of aging.. To diagnose dementia, doctors first assess whether a person has an underlying treatable condition such as abnormal thyroid function, normal pressure hydrocephalus , or a vitamin deficiency that may relate to cognitive difficulties.. Typical questions about a person’s medical and family history might include asking about whether dementia runs in the family , how and when symptoms began, changes in behavior and personality, and if the person is taking certain medications that might cause or worsen symptoms.. NIA Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center 800-438-4380 (toll-free) firstname.lastname@example.org/alzheimers The National Institute on Aging’s ADEAR Center offers information and free print publications about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias for families, caregivers, and health professionals.
These phones often have features like large buttons, picture dialing, hearing aid compatibility, and more to help them communicate with family easily.Pair your home phone up with our highly-rated teleCalm senior phone service and automatically block would-be scammers, repeat calling, and unneeded 911 calls.See Dementia-Friendly Phone Service PlansHow to Pick the Best Home Phone for A Loved One with DementiaPopular phones often frustrate seniors living with dementia, causing numerous problems and increased stress for the senior and their family.. Feel free to read everything or click a link to skip ahead.Telephone Problems Commonly Seen with DementiaImportant Features for Dementia-Friendly PhonesTop Dementia and Alzheimers Home Phones for 2022Common Questions About Home Phones for Dementia and AlzheimersMethodologyConsiderations for Choosing a Dementia-Friendly Home TelephoneOur research shows that keeping seniors with dementia connected with family and friends by telephone provides great benefits:Reduced sense of isolationLowered stress and anxiety for seniors and caregiversSlowed disease progressionPicking the best phone for dementia starts with understanding your loved ones unique needs and learning about suitable options.. Based on years of personal experience and customer feedback, weve found that the following key features are the most important to consider when shopping for a dementia-friendly home phone.Photo Dial Buttons Photo dial buttons make it easy for seniors with memory challenges or physical challenges to dial family and friends with the touch of a single button.In middle stages of dementia, photo dialing can eliminate frustration from dialing by phone number.. The best dementia-friendly telephones have buttons with these characteristics:Large buttons which are easy to press as intendedEasy-to-read numbers with high contrast ink or backlightGood tactile feedbackEnough spacing between buttons to minimize accidental tapsCordless Phone Cordless phones can be a great option for seniors at earlier stages of dementia:Great first step when transitioning from a mobile phoneProvides mobility and a better sense of independence and flexibilityAvoids stigma some seniors feel when they are forced to use simpler large-button phonesCan support two or more handsets, making it easy to keep a phone in every room without creating tripping hazards from telephone extension cords.Simple Features Caregivers tell us that simpler phones are better for seniors with dementia.. It also stops all robocalls, telemarketers and scammers.Why Choose The Future Call FC-1007SP Make it easy for seniors to call family and friends Use the same phone as dementia progresses Dial by Number for early stage dementias Flip the hidden mode-switch to Dial by Photo as dementia progresses Low cost helps tight budget Works well with teleCalm phone service.Why We Recommend This Phone Simple phone with big buttons is well suited for elderly users at all stages of dementia Photo Dial Mode helps seniors dial even if they have trouble with numbers and names.. Click here to learn how teleCalm Caregiver phone service can stop problem calls yet keep a loved-one safely connected by phoneWhy We Recommended This PhoneSimple desk phone designed for elderly users at early or middle stages of dementia.Easy to dial by photo or dial by numberSaves dignity by giving a choice of how to dialOutbound calls are not limited by a small number of photos or speed-dial numbersOffers a smooth transition to photo only dialing as number dialing becomes more frustratingCord helps keep the handset from getting misplaced or lost.Traditional desk phone design can stay familiar to seniors with fading memory.Key FeaturesSeparate buttons for Photo Dialing and Number DialingLoud Ringer and Volume OptionsBright flasher gives visual indication of incoming callsHi-Definition SoundHandsfree SpeakerPrice: Less than $100 USD | Order Serene Innovations HD40P HERE 3.. Panasonic KX-TGM420W Excellent Cordless Phone for Seniors, Including High Functioning Seniors with Early-Stage DementiaWhy Choose The Panasonic KX-TGM420WCordless design avoids tangled and cluttered cordsMany unusual features specifically intended to help with poor hearingHigh-functioning seniors want Caller-ID and Built-In Answering MachineWorks well with teleCalm phone service.Why We Recommended This PhoneThis senior-friendly cordless phone can help with common aging problems like hearing loss and eyesightClean design can work well for early stages of DementiaConvenient to have built-in Caller-ID and answering machine vs. have separate units and extra cordsCaveat: In our experience, this model is usually not appropriate for mid to late stages of Dementia.. Click here to learn how teleCalm Caregiver phone service can stop problem calls yet keep a loved-one safely connected by phone.Why We Recommended This Phone Can prevent or delay the frustration caused by removing a loved-ones phone when symptoms become too problematicCord helps keep the handset from getting misplaced or lostTraditional design can stay familiar to seniors with fading memoryKey Features Corded handsetAllows only trusted callers when paired with teleCalm phone serviceDoes not allow placing callsPrice: Less than $50 USD.. We do this by providing a phone service specifically made to help those dealing with the symptoms of dementia and their caretakers cope without cutting your loved ones off from their home phone service.Not only do we provide a phone service for dementia but our team also, researches the various problems caused by dementia, analyzes feedback from caretakers about how phones and our service worked in helping alleviate issues caused by dementia, and were always reviewing new products and equipment aimed at helping seniors with dementia.
Most types of dementia can't be cured, but there are ways to manage your symptoms.. The following are used to temporarily improve dementia symptoms.. Although primarily used to treat Alzheimer's disease, these medications might also be prescribed for other dementias, including vascular dementia, Parkinson's disease dementia and Lewy body dementia.. Dementia symptoms and behavior problems will progress over time.. There is growing evidence that exercise also protects the brain from dementia, especially when combined with a healthy diet and treatment for risk factors for cardiovascular disease.. Some research also shows that physical activity might slow the progression of impaired thinking in people with Alzheimer's disease, and it can lessen symptoms of depression.. Music therapy, which involves listening to soothing music Light exercise Watching videos of family members Pet therapy, which involves use of animals, such as visits from dogs, to promote improved moods and behaviors in people with dementia Aromatherapy, which uses fragrant plant oils Massage therapy Art therapy, which involves creating art, focusing on the process rather than the outcome. Learn about memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.. Learn about the disease and participate in caregiver education programs Find out about supportive services in your community, such as respite care or adult care, which can give you a break from caregiving at scheduled times during the week Ask friends or other family members for help Take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual health Ask questions of doctors, social workers and others involved in the care of your loved one Join a support group. Symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment, and when they began Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes and family medical history All medications, vitamins or supplements you take, including the doses Questions to ask the doctor. Dementia.
Mixed dementia is a common type of dementia when individuals have two or more types of dementia.. The most common types of dementia that cause Mixed Dementia are Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia .. As per experts, individuals with symptoms of cardiovascular disease and dementia, getting worse over time, can be diagnosed with Mixed Dementia because it is a strong indication that Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Disease are both present.. Since Mixed Dementia is the combination of more than one type of dementia, symptoms vary from person to person based on the types of dementia that the individual has.. To know the symptoms of Mixed Dementia, it is vital to recognize the signs in the most common types of dementia that make up Mixed Dementia.. At least one in ten individuals living with dementia are diagnosed with more than one type of dementia, or Mixed Dementia.. The most common types of Mixed Dementia are Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, and Lewy Body Dementia.
While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, there are also many other forms, including vascular and mixed dementia.. The first step is to understand what distinguishes normal memory loss from dementia symptoms, and how to identify the different types of dementia.. But not all memory changes indicate dementia—and dementia impacts more than just memory.. Not recognizing or being confused about familiar people.. Poorly managed diabetes can lead to stroke and heart disease, increasing your risk for dementia, especially vascular, Alzheimer’s, or mixed dementia.. Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, which in turn heightens your risk of mental decline and dementia.. Heavy or binge drinking can increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, including Korsakoff syndrome, a type of dementia commonly caused by alcohol abuse.. You have difficulties following a conversation, often repeat yourself, struggle to find the right word, or call things by the right name.. This is a condition in which Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia occur simultaneously.. Many people with MCI eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.. Timely intervention may also help you better control symptoms and prolong your quality of life.
Not everyone develops dementia as they get older, and, in rare cases, some people develop dementia in midlife.. Researchers have connected changes in the brain to certain forms of dementia, but in most cases the specific brain changes that cause dementia are unknown.. Alzheimer’s dementia is typically associated with abnormal buildups of proteins in the brain — these are known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles — along with a loss of connection among nerve cells.. Vascular dementia is a diagnosis of dementia in people who have vascular changes in the brain, such as a stroke or injury to small vessels carrying blood to the brain.. People diagnosed with a vascular dementia may also show changes in the brain’s white matter, i.e., the connecting "wires" of the brain that relay messages between regions.. Mixed dementia refers to a diagnosis of dementia that is thought to be connected to a mixture of changes in the brain.. Many other conditions can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms, including argyrophilic grain disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington's disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and HIV-associated dementia.. Talk with your doctor if you experience serious memory problems or other symptoms of dementia.. The symptoms of dementia can vary, depending on the type of dementia and what areas of the brain are affected.. People with dementia and those caring for them can face great challenges, including the person’s ability to handle tasks, changes in family relationships, loss of work, and the need for more care as the underlying disease progresses.. People in the earlier stages of dementia may need help with daily activities, while people with advanced dementia may need constant care and supervision.. No treatments currently exist to stop or slow dementia caused by Alzheimer’s or related dementias.. This booklet provides an overview of research on Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, and more.. If you are concerned about memory problems or other symptoms of dementia, call your doctor.
Some diseases look like dementias, such as those caused by a reaction to medications or vitamin deficiencies, and they might improve with treatment.. Many people with Parkinson's disease eventually develop dementia symptoms (Parkinson's disease dementia).. By middle age, many people with Down syndrome develop early-onset Alzheimer's disease.. Research shows that lack of exercise increases the risk of dementia.. Smoking might increase your risk of developing dementia and blood vessel diseases.. People who've had a severe head trauma have a greater risk of Alzheimer's disease.. Several large studies found that in people age 50 years or older who had a traumatic brain injury (TBI), the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease increased.. Some studies have shown that smoking in middle age and beyond might increase your risk of dementia and blood vessel conditions.. Some research suggests that people with low levels of vitamin D in their blood are more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.. More research is needed to determine whether treating high blood pressure may reduce the risk of dementia.. Dementia.
Neurodegenerative diseases include conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease .. A decline in cognitive functioning is a common symptom of all neurodegenerative diseases.. Below are some of the causes of neurodegenerative diseases.. And, as you age, these neurons die.. The most significant risk factor for developing a neurodegenerative disease is old age.. Other factors include:. There are many different forms of neurodegenerative diseases.. Common symptoms include:. Early signs of the condition include muscle stiffness and weakness.. While the condition is primarily marked by difficulty with movement, it also causes a loss of cognitive function.. They are typically treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy.. Unfortunately, these diseases are progressive, and there are currently no medications that can help to slow down the progression of their symptoms.. Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles.