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Dementia is a general decline in a person's mental abilities that is severe enough to interfere with daily living and activities. It affects memory, problem solving, learning, and other mental functions.

A variety of conditions can cause dementia, including injuries to the brain from tumors, head injury, or stroke; diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease; or long-term alcohol dependence. People (especially older adults) who are depressed may seem to have dementia when they do not (pseudodementia).

People who have dementia often experience:

  • Confusion and memory loss.

  • Inability to complete everyday tasks.

  • Loss of self-control leading to unexpected behavior, such as throwing things, yelling at other people, or being suspicious of others.

  • Impaired judgment and reduced ability to make decisions and learn new things.

  • An eventual loss of control over physical functions, such as urination. 

Date Last Reviewed: 6/17/2009
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