Dementia: What Are The Symptoms, Causes, And Risk Factors?

10 min read
Jan 28, 2024
Dementia: What Are The Symptoms, Causes, And Risk Factors?


Dementia is the term used to describe a group of symptoms that affect social, cognitive, and memory abilities. Patients with dementia have symptoms that impede their daily routines. There isn't just one type of dementia. Dementia is a result of several illnesses.

A common symptom of dementia is memory loss. It frequently occurs as one of the illness's initial signs. But memory loss might not always be a sign of dementia . Numerous factors can contribute to memory loss.

Although there are other causes of dementia , Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause in older persons. Certain dementia symptoms may be reversible, depending on the underlying reason.


Depending on the reason, dementia symptoms can change. Typical signs and symptoms include of:

Cognitive changes

  • Memory loss, which is typically observed by another person.
  • Difficulties speaking or expressing oneself.
  • Problems with vision and spatial orientation, including getting lost when driving.
  • Issues with logic or addressing problems.
  • Difficulty carrying out difficult jobs.
  • Having difficulty organizing and planning.
  • Inadequate movement control and synchronization.
  • Lost in thought and direction.

Psychological changes

  • Personality changes.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Inappropriate behavior.
  • Being paranoid is being suspicious.
  • Hallucinations are defined as perceiving objects that are not real.

When to see a doctor

If you or a loved one suffers memory issues or other dementia symptoms, get medical attention. It is critical to identify the cause. Treatments exist for a few medical disorders that contribute to dementia symptoms.


Damage to or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain results in dementia . The specific region of the brain affected determines the symptoms. The effects of dementia can vary amongst persons.

Commonalities among dementia s are frequently used to categorize them. Depending on which protein or proteins have been deposited in the brain or which area of the brain is impacted, they can be categorized.

Furthermore, certain illnesses exhibit dementia -like symptoms. Additionally, a reaction to some medications may result in signs of dementia .

Inadequate intake of specific vitamins or minerals may also contribute to the symptoms of dementia . When this happens, treatment may help the symptoms of dementia .

Progressive dementias

Progressive dementia s deteriorate over time. dementia s that deteriorate and cannot be reversed include:

  • Alzheimer's disease: The most typical cause of dementia is this.

While the exact etiology of Alzheimer's disease is unknown, scientists have determined that alterations in three genes account for a minor portion of the disease's cases.

Parent to child transmission of these gene alterations is possible. Although numerous genes are probably implicated in Alzheimer's disease, apolipoprotein E4 is a key gene that increases risk (APOE).

The brains of those who have Alzheimer's disease are tangled and covered in plaques. Beta-amyloid protein aggregates form plaques. Tau protein forms fibrous clumps called tangles.

These aggregates are believed to cause harm to both healthy brain cells and the fibers that connect them.

  • Vascular dementia: Damage to the blood arteries supplying the brain is the cause of this particular form of dementia. Issues with blood vessels can lead to strokes or have other effects on the brain, such breaking down the brain's white matter fibers.

Vascular dementia is most commonly characterized by difficulties solving tasks, sluggish thinking, and lack of organization and attention. Compared to memory loss, these are typically easier to notice.

  • Lewy body dementia : Lewy bodies are protein aggregates that resemble balloons. They have been discovered in the brains of patients suffering from Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Lewy body dementia . One of the more prevalent forms of dementia is lewy body dementia .

Visual hallucinations, or seeing things that are not there, and acting out dreams while asleep are common symptoms. In addition, difficulties paying attention and focusing are symptoms.

Other symptoms include parkinsonism, which is characterized by stiffness, tremors, and slow or uncoordinated movement.

  • Frontotemporal dementia : This category of illnesses is defined by the disintegration of nerve cells and their connections in the brain's frontal and temporal lobes.

These domains are linked to behavior, personality, and language. Common symptoms impact thinking, judgment, movement, behavior, personality, and language.

  • Mixed dementia : A number of individuals with dementia who were 80 years of age or older had a combination of many causes, according to autopsy investigations done on their brains.

Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia , and Lewy body dementia are all possible in people with mixed dementia . Research is still being conducted to find out how treating a mixed dementia impacts symptoms.

Other disorders linked to dementia

  • Huntington's disease: A genetic alteration is the cause of Huntington's disease. Certain nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord deteriorate as a result of the disease.

One of the symptoms is a reduction in cognitive capacities, or the ability to think. Usually, symptoms start to show up at 30 or 40 years old.

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Repetitive head trauma is the most common cause of this syndrome. TBIs can occur in boxers, football players, or military personnel.

The specific area of the brain affected determines the symptoms of dementia . TBI can result in memory loss, irritability, sadness, and speech impairment.

TBI can also result in stiffness, tremors, and delayed movement. It is possible for symptoms to develop years after the event.

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: Those without identified risk factors are typically affected by this uncommon brain condition. Prion deposits could be the cause of this illness.

Prion proteins are infectious proteins. This deadly illness typically manifests symptoms after age 60.

Although the cause of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is mostly unknown, it can be inherited from a parent. Exposure to damaged brain or nervous system tissue, such as that resulting from a corneal transplant, may possibly be the cause.

  • Parkinson's disease: Many Parkinson's patients eventually experience the signs and symptoms of dementia . It is referred to as Parkinson's disease dementia when this occurs.

Dementia-like conditions that can be reversed

Treatment may be able to reverse some causes of symptoms resembling dementia . Among them are:

  • Infections and immune disorders: Fever or other side effects of the body's attempt to fight off an infection might cause symptoms that resemble dementia .

Dementia can also result from multiple sclerosis and other illnesses where the immune system of the body attacks nerve cells.

  • Metabolic or endocrine problems: Individuals who have low blood sugar and thyroid issues may have personality changes or symptoms similar to dementia .

This also applies to those who have issues absorbing vitamin B-12, have too little or too much calcium or sodium in their bodies.

  • Low levels of certain nutrients: A diet deficient in certain vitamins or minerals may exacerbate symptoms of dementia. This includes the prevalent deficiency of thiamin, or vitamin B-1, in individuals with alcohol use disorders.

Inadequate intake of vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, copper, or vitamin E is also included. Dehydration from not consuming enough fluids might potentially exacerbate dementia symptoms.

  • Medicine side effects: Dementia -like symptoms can be brought on by medication side effects, drug reactions, or interactions between multiple medications.
  • Subdural bleeding: After a fall, older persons may experience bleeding between the brain's surface and its covering. There are times when dementia -like symptoms are brought on by subdural hemorrhage.
  • Brain tumors: On rare occasions, brain tumor damage might lead to dementia .
  • Normal-pressure hydrocephalus: This disorder is caused by an accumulation of fluid in the brain's ventricles, which are cavities. It may cause memory loss, difficulty walking, and loss of bladder control.

Risk factors

Dementia may eventually result from numerous sources. Age is one of those variables that is unchangeable. You can lower your risk by addressing other factors.

Risk factors that can't be changed

  • Age: Dementia becomes more likely with age, particularly after age 65. But Dementia isn't an inevitable aspect of growing older. Younger adults can also get Dementia .
  • Family history: You run a higher risk of getting dementia if dementia runs in your family. On the other hand, a large number of people without a family history experience symptoms, while a large number of people with one never do.

You can take a test to find out whether you have any genetic alterations that could put you at risk.

  • Down syndrome: Many persons with Down syndrome experience early-onset Alzheimer's disease by the time they are middle-aged.

Risk factors you can change

Some of the following dementia risk factors may be within your control.

  • Diet and exercise : Studies have indicated that those with a higher risk of dementia who maintained a healthy lifestyle had a decreased chance of cognitive deterioration.

They consumed fish, fruits, vegetables, and oils in their diet. They engaged in social activities, exercise d, and received cognitive training.

Research suggests that people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet high in vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds have superior cognitive function, even if no particular diet has been shown to lower the incidence of dementia.

  • Drinking too much alcohol: It has long been known that heavy alcohol consumption alters the brain.

Alcohol use disorders have been associated with an increased risk of dementia , particularly early-onset dementia , according to several large studies and reviews.

  • Cardiovascular risk factors: These include atherosclerosis, or the accumulation of fat in the arterial walls, obesity, high blood pressure, and excessive cholesterol.

Smoking and diabetes are other cardiovascular risk factors. Dementia is more common in people with diabetes, particularly if the disease is poorly managed.

Smoking may make blood vessel disease and dementia more likely to occur.

  • Depression: While the exact cause of late-life depression is unknown, it may be a sign of dementia .
  • Air pollution: Research conducted on animals has demonstrated that air pollution particles can accelerate nervous system deterioration.

Additionally, research on people has shown that exposure to air pollution, especially that from burning wood and vehicle exhaust, increases the risk of dementia .

  • Head trauma: Individuals with a history of serious head injuries are more susceptible to Alzheimer's disease.

Numerous extensive investigations have revealed an elevated risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease in individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who are 50 years of age or older.

Those with more severe and multiple TBIs are at higher risk. According to certain research, the risk can be highest in the first six months to two years following a traumatic brain injury.

  • Sleep problems: Individuals with sleep apnea and other sleep disorders may be more susceptible to dementia .
  • Low levels of certain vitamins and nutrients: Dementia may be more likely in people with low vitamin D, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, and folate levels.
  • Medicines that can worsen memory: These include diphenhydramine-containing sleep aids (Benadryl) and oxybutynin (Ditropan XL) medications for treating urine urgency.

Don't use too many sleeping pills or sedatives. Consult a medical expert if you think any of your medications could be impairing your memory.


Many bodily systems and, thus, one's capacity to operate can be impacted by dementia . dementia may result in:

  • Poor nutrition: Many individuals with dementia eventually quit eating altogether, which has an impact on their nutritional intake. In the end, kids might not be able to swallow and chew.
  • Pneumonia: The chance of choking rises with difficulty swallowing. Moreover, aspiration—the inhalation of food or drinks into the lungs—can occur. This may result in pneumonia by obstructing breathing.
  • Inability to perform self-care tasks: People with dementia find it more difficult to dress, bathe, and clean their teeth or hair as their condition worsens. Help with using the restroom and taking medications as prescribed is needed.
  • Personal safety challenges: People with dementia may experience safety concerns in certain everyday circumstances. Walking, cooking, driving, and living alone are a few of these.
  • Death: In advanced dementia , coma and death are possible outcomes. Often, an infection is the reason of this.


Although dementia cannot be completely avoided, there are several precautions you may take that may be helpful. Although more research is required, the following actions could be helpful:

  • Keep your mind active: Engaging in mentally engaging activities may both prevent dementia from developing and lessen its effects. Take time to read, play word games, and solve puzzles.
  • Be physically and socially active: Engaging in physical exercise and interacting with others can postpone the onset of dementia and mitigate its symptoms. Aim for 150 minutes a week of physical activity.
  • Quit smoking: According to certain research, smoking may raise the risk of blood vessel problems and dementia in people who are middle-aged and older. Giving up smoking may lower the danger and enhance health.
  • Get enough vitamins: According to some study, there may be a link between low blood levels of vitamin D and an increased risk of dementia , including Alzheimer's disease. Sunlight, some meals, and supplements can raise your vitamin D levels.

Before increasing vitamin D intake is advised to prevent dementia , more research is required. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to ensure that you receive enough vitamin D. Taking vitamin C and a daily B-complex supplement may also be beneficial.

  • Manage cardiovascular risk factors: Handle diabetes, high blood pressure, and excessive cholesterol. If you're overweight, shed some pounds.

There may be a connection between high blood pressure and an increased risk of dementia . To find out if treating high blood pressure can lower the risk of dementia , more research is required.

  • Treat health conditions: For treatment of anxiety or depression, consult your physician.
  • Maintain a healthy diet : A Mediterranean-style diet , for example, may improve health and reduce the risk of dementia.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids—which are frequently found in nuts and some fish—are all abundant in a Mediterranean diet .

Additionally, this food style enhances cardiovascular health, which may help reduce the incidence of dementia .

  • Get good-quality sleep: Maintain proper sleeping habits. If you suffer episodes of gasping or stopping your breathing while you sleep, or if you snore excessively, see a doctor.
  • Treat hearing problems: Cognitive decline, a term used to describe problems with thinking, is more common in those who have hearing loss. Using hearing aids as early treatment for hearing loss may help lower the risk.