What is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term to describe the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. 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 daily living.

The causes of dementia can vary, depending on the types of brain changes that may be taking place. There are many types of dementia and it is common for people to have a combination of two or more disorders. For example, some people have both Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia with Lewy Bodies.

  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Mixed Dementia
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Other conditions that can cause memory loss or dementia:

  • medication side effects
  • chronic alcoholism
  • tumors or infections in the brain
  • blood clots in the brain
  • vitamin B12 deficiency
  • some thyroid, kidney, or liver disorders
  • stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Sleep disturbances

Source: National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center, Alzheimer’s Association