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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Dementia - Topic Overview

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. This topic focuses on other conditions that cause dementia. For more information on Alzheimer's, see the topic Alzheimer's Disease.

We all forget things as we get older. Many older people have a slight loss of memory that does not affect their daily lives. But memory loss that gets worse may mean that you have dementia.

Dementia is a loss of mental skills that affects your daily life. It can cause problems with your memory and how well you can think and plan. Usually dementia gets worse over time. How long this takes is different for each person. Some people stay the same for years. Others lose skills quickly.

Your chances of having dementia rise as you get older. But this doesn't mean that everyone will get it.

If you or a loved one has memory loss that is getting worse, see your doctor. It may be nothing to worry about. If it is dementia, treatment may help.

Dementia is caused by damage to or changes in the brain. Things that can cause dementia include:

In a few cases, dementia is caused by a problem that can be treated. Examples include having an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), not getting enough vitamin B12, and fluid buildup in the brain (normal-pressure hydrocephalus). In these cases, treating the problem may help the dementia.

In some people, depression can cause memory loss that seems like dementia. Depression can be treated.

As you age, medicines may affect you more. Taking some medicines together may cause symptoms that look like dementia. Be sure your doctor knows about all of the medicines you take. This means all prescription medicines and all over-the-counter medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements.

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