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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.
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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.
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