What causes dementia?

Many things are known to cause dementia, including progressive degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease, infections such as HIV and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, medications, alcohol abuse, hormonal or chemical imbalances, vitamin deficiency, depression, infection, heart or lung disease, normal pressure hydrocephalus (fluid collection on the brain), or brain tumors. Some conditions that cause dementia run in families and others have specific risk factors.

Disease causes of dementia

Many progressive diseases are known to cause dementia including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Pick’s disease

Other causes of dementia

A number of other conditions are also known to cause dementia. Examples include:

  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Brain tumors
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Head injury or trauma
  • HIV infection
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Stroke

What are the risk factors for dementia?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing dementia. Not all people with risk factors will get dementia. Risk factors for dementia include:

  • Advancing age
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Certain medications including some antidepressants and antianxiety drugs
  • Diabetes (chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)
  • Family history of dementia
  • High cholesterol, which can lead to atherosclerosis
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Smoking

Reducing your risk of dementia

Progressive diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease are not preventable, although some types of dementia, such as dementia associated with stroke or cardiovascular disease, may be preventable. You may be able to lower your risk of dementia by:

  • Controlling blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Eating a healthy diet that is low in fat
  • Exercising regularly
  • Quitting smoking

What is dementia?

Dementia occurs when brain function is lost. Thought processes, judgment, behavior, language ability, and memory can be affected. Dementia can occur with a variety of different conditions. It is most common after the age of 60, although it can occur at earlier ages.... Read more about dementiaintroduction


What are the symptoms of dementia?

Symptoms of dementia include progressive changes in thought processes, judgment, behavior, language ability, and memory.... Read more about dementiasymptoms


How is dementia treated?

Treatment of dementia begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life. Regular medical care allows a health care professional to provide early screening tests. Regular medical care also provides an opportunity for your health care professional to promptly evaluate symptoms and your risks for developing dementia.... Read more about dementiatreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves