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Dementia is a set of symptoms, which affect the way people think and interact with each other. It is not a disease, but can often be linked to a disease or damage done to the brain. Very often, short-time memory, mind, speech and motor skills are affected. Certain forms of dementia cause a change in the personality of the sufferer. A person suffering from dementia will lose certain skills and knowledge they already had. This is the main difference to other conditions affecting the mind. People who suffer from learning problems, or lower intelligence will never acquire certain skills, people suffering from dementia will lose skills they have acquired. Dementia is more common in older people. Certain forms of dementia can be treated, to some extent. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, which accounts for between 50 and 60 percent of all cases.
People who see the following worsen may suffer from dementia:
- Decision-making ability
- Orientation in time and space
- Problem solving
- Verbal communication
Behavioral changes may include:
- Dressing (may need assistance)
- Routine activities (may become unable to perform household tasks)
- Personality (inappropriate responses, lack of emotional control)
Some types dementia are reversible. This means the damage can be undone. Other types are irreversible. This means that they cannot be undone. Irreversible dementia is usually caused by an incurable disease, such as Alzheimer's disease.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease causes a dementia that gets worse quickly, over weeks or months, and is caused by prions. On the other hand, other forms like encephalopathy or delirium may develop relatively slowly, over the years.
The two leading causes of dementia are Alzheimer's disease and Multi-infarct disease. Glioma related tumors are another kmown cause. Alcohol dementia, is sometimes associated with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and is caused by long-term or uncontrolled, heavy alcohol abuse.
Possible metabolic causes are such as liver failure or kidney failure; and chronic subdural hematoma. Possible other causes may include brain infection by illnesses like meningitis leading in cases to viral encephalitis drug toxicity (e.g. anticonvulsant drugs).
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- Neuropathology Group. Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Aging Study (2001). "Pathological correlates of late-onset dementia in a multicentre, community-based population in England and Wales. Neuropathology Group of the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (MRC CFAS)". Lancet 357 (9251): 169–75. . .