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Dementia, Alzheimer's and Memory Disorders

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a loss of brain function that affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior. Dementia is not a specific disease; rather it is a descriptive term for a collection of symptoms that can be caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain.

While memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, memory loss by itself does not mean that the person has dementia.  Two or more brain functions, such as memory and language skills, must be significantly impaired to give a dementia diagnosis.

Causes of Dementia

Many diseases can cause dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia.  In most of these instances, dementia is progressive and not reversible. Although drugs are available to treat some of these diseases, they cannot cure dementia or repair brain damage. They may improve symptoms or slow down the progression of the disease.

There are other conditions that can cause dementia or dementia-like symptoms including:

  • Reactions to medications
  • Metabolic problems
  • Endocrine abnormalities
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Infections
  • Brain tumors

In these conditions, it may be possible for treatment to reverse the progress of dementia.

Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia symptoms vary depending on the cause and the area of the brain that is affected.  Memory loss is usually the earliest and most noticeable symptom.  Other key symptoms of dementia include difficulties in:

  • Language
  • Memory perception
  • Emotional behavior or personality change
  • Cognitive skills (such as calculations, abstract thinking, or judgment)

As dementia progresses, symptoms are more obvious and interfere with the ability to care for oneself.  People with severe dementia can no longer perform everyday tasks.  Characteristics of this stage include:

  • Inability to walk or move from place to place unassisted
  • Complete dependence on others for activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, preparing meals, etc)
  • Complete loss of short and long term memory

Treatment for Dementia

Treatment for dementia depends on the condition causing the dementia and the extent of damage already done to the brain.  The goal of treatment is to control the symptoms of dementia and improve a patient's quality of life.

Appointments and Referrals

For more information about our dementia and memory disorder program or to schedule an appointment with one of our neurologists, call (832) 325-7080.

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