Dementia isn't a specific disease. Instead, dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning.

Dementia indicates problems with at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and impaired judgment or language, and the inability to perform some daily activities such as paying bills or becoming lost while driving.

Though memory loss generally occurs in dementia, memory loss alone doesn't mean you have dementia. There is a certain extent of memory loss that is a normal part of aging.

Many causes of dementia symptoms exist. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of a progressive dementia. Some causes of dementia may be reversible.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Dementia symptoms vary depending on the cause, but common signs and symptoms include:

Cognitive changes

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty communicating or finding words
  • Difficulty with complex tasks
  • Difficulty with planning and organizing
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
  • Problems with disorientation, such as getting lost

Psychological changes

  • Personality changes
  • Inability to reason
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations

When to see a doctor

See a doctor if you or a loved one experiences memory problems or other dementia symptoms. Some treatable medical conditions can cause dementia symptoms, so it's important that a doctor determine the underlying cause.

Alzheimer's disease and several other types of dementia worsen over time. Early diagnosis gives you time to plan for the future while you can participate in making decisions.

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