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Symptoms of Dementia

In general, signs and symptoms of dementia can include significantly impaired intellectual functioning that interferes with normal activities and relationships, loss of ability to solve problems, and loss of ability to maintain emotional control. However, symptoms can vary, depending on the condition that's causing the dementia. While memory loss is a symptom, memory loss alone does not necessarily indicate that a person has dementia.

Signs and Symptoms of Dementia: An Overview

Many older people worry about becoming more forgetful. They think forgetfulness is the first sign of Alzheimer's disease. In the past, memory loss and confusion were considered a normal part of aging. However, dementia research scientists now know that most people remain both alert and able as they age, although it may take them longer to remember things.
So what is dementia? Dementia is not a specific disease. It is a descriptive term for a collection of symptoms that result from a change in brain function. There are many conditions that can cause dementia (see Causes of Dementia).
Although Alzheimer's disease and certain other conditions are technically causes of dementia, they are also often referred to as types of dementia. Likewise, terms such as "vascular dementia" are often used to describe causes as well as types of dementia.

General Dementia Symptoms

The symptoms of dementia can vary, depending on the type of dementia a person has. However, some general symptoms include:
  • Significantly impaired intellectual functioning that interferes with normal activities and relationships
  • Loss of ability to solve problems
  • Loss of ability to maintain emotional control
  • Personality changes and behavioral problems, such as agitation, delusions, and hallucinations
  • Loss of language skills
  • Memory loss
  • Getting disoriented about time, people, and places
  • Neglecting personal safety, hygiene, and nutrition.
While memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, memory loss by itself does not mean that a person has dementia. Doctors will diagnose dementia only if two or more brain functions -- such as memory, language skills, perception, or cognitive skills (including reasoning and judgment) -- are significantly impaired without loss of consciousness.
(Click Dementia Diagnosis for more information about the steps involved in making a diagnosis.)
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Information on Dementia

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