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Dementia - Cause

Dementia is caused by damage to or changes in the brain. After 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.

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Causes that cannot be reversed

Common causes of dementia that cannot be reversed are:

Less common causes of dementia that cannot be reversed include:

  • Huntington's disease.
  • Leukoencephalopathies, which are diseases that affect the deeper, white-matter brain tissue.
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and fatal condition that destroys brain tissue.
  • Brain injuries from accidents or boxing.
  • Some cases of multiple sclerosis (MS) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
  • Multiple-system atrophy (a group of degenerative brain diseases affecting speech, movement, and autonomic functions).
  • 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:

Inherited dementia

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 Alzheimer's Disease.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 11, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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