Dementia

Alternative Names

Chronic brain syndrome; Lewy body dementia; DLB; Vascular dementia; Mild cognitive impairment; MCI

Definition of Dementia

Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. It affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Most types of dementia are nonreversible (degenerative). Nonreversible means the changes in the brain that are causing the dementia cannot be stopped or turned back. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.

Symptoms

Dementia symptoms include difficulty with many areas of mental function, including:

Signs and tests

Dementia can often be diagnosed with a history and physical exam by a skilled doctor or nurse. A health care provider will take a history, do a physical exam (including a neurological exam), and perform some tests of mental function called a mental status examination.

Treatment

For information on how to take care of a loved one with dementia, see: Dementia – home care

Expectations (prognosis)

People with mild cognitive impairment do not always develop dementia. However, when dementia does occur, it usually gets worse and often decreases quality of life and lifespan.

Review

Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/29/2009

Central nervous system

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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