Subscribe to illnesses and disabilities email updates.
Dementia (dih-MEN-chuh) is a group of symptoms that can be caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain. Signs of dementia may include:
- Memory loss
- Problems carrying out normal daily activities, such as not remembering to take your medicines
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Changes in personality, such as becoming short-tempered and hostile
- Delusions, such as thinking that someone is stealing from you when they are not
- Losing the ability to recognize family members
- Losing the ability to speak
Although memory loss is a common sign of dementia, memory loss by itself does not mean that you have dementia. People with dementia have serious problems with two or more brain functions, such as memory and language.
Dementia can occur for many reasons. Some diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease, cause a gradual loss of mental function over time. With stroke, dementia symptoms can start all at once. In some cases of permanent dementia, medicines can improve symptoms or slow down the disease, but they cannot cure dementia or repair brain damage. Dementia-like symptoms that result from a head injury, infection, or bad reaction to medication might go away once the underlying problem is treated.
How dementia affects a person's everyday functioning depends greatly on how mild or severe the symptoms are. People with moderate or advanced dementia typically need round-the-clock care and supervision to prevent them from harming themselves or others. They also may need assistance with daily activities such as eating, bathing, and dressing.
Explore other publications and websites
AIDS Dementia Complex (Copyright © Project Inform) — This publication talks about AIDS dementia complex (ADC), including detailed descriptions of the symptoms it causes in its different stages. It describes how HIV is thought to cause ADC and how doctors diagnose and treat ADC and its symptoms.
Dementia – Is This Dementia and What Does It Mean? (Copyright © Family Caregiver Alliance) — This in-depth fact sheet describes the symptoms of dementia, offers suggestions for caregivers, and links to a number of useful resources about dementia.
Dementia With Lewy Bodies Information Page — This online publication gives information on dementia with Lewy bodies. It explains what it is, how it can be controlled, and what research is being done to further understand the disease.
Dementia: Hope Through Research — This brochure provides information about dementia. It includes the different types of dementia, other conditions that can cause dementia, treatment options, and the latest research that is being conducted for dementia.
Dementia: Info and Advice for Caregivers (Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians) — This fact sheet provides information on dementia, behavioral problems common with this condition, and how to care for someone with dementia.
Multi-Infarct Dementia (Copyright © Mental Health America) — This fact sheet provides information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of multi-infarct dementia: the second most common cause of dementia in older people after Alzheimer’s disease.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Multi-Infarct Dementia Information Page — This online publication reviews treatment, prognosis, research, and resources on multi-infarct dementia, a common cause of dementia in older people.
NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page — This online publication offers information about Alzheimer's disease. It reviews treatment, prognosis, resources, and the latest research being done.
NINDS Frontotemporal Dementia Information Page — This online publication explains frontotemporal dementia, once known as Pick’s disease, and reviews treatment, prognosis, research, and resources.
Vascular Dementia (Copyright © Mayo Foundation) — This fact sheet provides information specific to vascular dementia, including symptoms, treatment, risk factors, and tips for prevention.
Connect with other organizations
Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, NIA, NIH, HHS
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH, HHS
National Institute on Aging, NIH, HHS
Content last updated September 22, 2009.
Resources last updated September 22, 2009.
A federal government website managed by the Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
200 Independence Avenue, S.W. • Washington, DC 20201