Dementia is caused by damage to or changes in the
Alzheimer's disease, stroke is the most common cause of
dementia. Dementia caused by stroke is called vascular dementia.
Some causes of dementia can be
reversed with treatment, but most cannot.
Causes that cannot
Common causes of dementia that cannot
be reversed are:
- Parkinson's disease. Dementia is common in people with this
- Dementia with Lewy bodies. It can cause short-term memory
- Frontotemporal dementia, a group of diseases that
includes Pick's disease.
- Severe head injury that caused a loss of
- Vascular dementia that may occur in people who have a stroke, long-term high
blood pressure, or severe hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Less common causes of dementia that cannot be reversed
- Huntington's disease.
- Leukoencephalopathies, which are diseases that affect the
deeper, white-matter brain tissue.
disease, a rare and fatal condition that destroys brain
- Brain injuries from accidents or boxing.
multiple sclerosis (MS) or
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Multiple-system atrophy (a group of degenerative brain
diseases affecting speech, movement, and
- Infections such as late-stage
syphilis. Antibiotics can effectively treat syphilis
at any stage, but they cannot reverse the brain damage already done.
Causes that may be reversible
When dementia is caused by certain treatable problems, the treatment may also help the dementia. These treatable problems include:
- Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).
- Vitamin B12 deficiency.
poisoning, such as from lead.
- Side effects of medicines or drug
- Some brain tumors.
- Normal-pressure hydrocephalus.
- Some cases of chronic alcoholism.
- Some cases
Some disorders that cause dementia can run in families.
Doctors often suspect an inherited cause if someone younger than 50 has
symptoms of dementia. For more information, see the topic
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Peter J. Whitehouse, MD - Neurology
June 23, 2011
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