10 treatable causes of dementia, recognize them for your well-being

Not all dementia is Alzheimer’s

While minor lapses in memory are normal, when forgetfulness begins to interfere with daily life or symptoms appear suddenly, it might be time to see a doctor. There are ways to improve your withdrawal. But dementia is surprisingly common: it affects more than 47.5 million people worldwide.

Dementia is not a disease itself, it is a general term (like cancer) for a variety of different types of mental disabilities. Most cases of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia (mini-strokes), Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, it is irreversible: treatable, but not curable.

But research suggests that up to one in five cases of dementia is triggered by treatable conditions. “Dementia as a diagnosis is not the same as exhibiting cognitive decline that mimics dementia”explains Kevin James, founder of

“Sometimes certain conditions can cause people to show symptoms similar to those of dementia, and in many cases these conditions can be treated and the symptoms reversed.”

the wrong drugs

Although not getting enough sleep can cause memory problems, taking prescription and over-the-counter sleep medications can cause symptoms that mimic dementia.

“There are some medications that can cause confusion and make dementia worse,” says Mollie Scott, PharmD, Regional Associate Dean at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Common drugs that do this are drugs with anticholinergic properties: Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs have these properties, including those that treat incontinence and COPD, as well as some antihistamines, sleep medications, and antidepressants, Scott says.

A common one is diphenhydramine, found in Benadryl and over-the-counter sleeping pills. “Older adults often use them without realizing that they can negatively affect memorycause constipation and urinary retention,” says Scott.

“I recently saw a woman in her 70s who was very concerned about her memory, but it turns out she couldn’t sleep and was taking 50mg diphenhydramine at bedtime. Once she stopped the medication, her symptoms improved.” This is when your meds can make you sick.

urinary tract infections

The typical symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) (fever, pain, and urgency) are often overlooked in older people and, if left untreated, they can cause symptoms that mimic dementia, such as delirium, confusion, agitation, and hallucinations.

“In nursing homes and hospitals, urinary tract infections are rampant and many patients are thought to have a sudden onset of dementia,” says James.

“If they’re given an antibiotic, the symptoms will go away, but unless you’re a nurse or a medical professional, you won’t necessarily know, and if left untreated, you could get an infection.”

Fever, along with the other side effects people experience when their bodies are fighting infections such as Lyme disease, meningitis, and encephalitis, can also cause dementia-like symptoms. These are the symptoms of a urinary infection.

hearing loss

Several recent studies have shown a link between hearing loss and dementiaand some experts believe that interventions such as professionally fitted hearing aids could delay or prevent dementia.

One study found that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults and that older people with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing, while another study found a link between hearing loss and accelerated loss of brain tissue.

“You hear with your brain, not your ears,” says Carole Rogin, president of the Hearing Industries Association (HIA). Unaddressed hearing loss not only affects the listener’s ability to accurately perceive sound, but also also affects higher level cognitive functionRoger explains.

Specifically, it interferes with the listener’s ability to accurately process auditory information and make sense of it. “The latest research tells us that even with mild hearing loss, there may be a cognitive brain drain that could be taking away resources from remembering what you heard,” says Rogin.

water on the brain

Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that causes the brain’s ventricles to enlarge, can cause problems walking, urinary difficulty, and memory loss.

According to the Hydrocephalus Association, more than 700,000 Americans have NPH, but less than 20% receive a proper diagnosis, leading them to be misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

“Called water on the brain, the condition is a buildup of brain fluid that causes pressure, and that pressure is put on the brain tissue and causes problems,” says James.

“If left untreated, it can cause long-term dementia, but if doctors can use a shunt and remove the fluid, the person’s symptoms may improve.”


People with depression sometimes develop a condition called pseudodementia, a type of cognitive decline that mimics dementia but is actually caused by mental health conditions (such as depression) rather than those of the central nervous system.

“The brain is the last explored frontier and not everything is understood in the medical community about the link between dementia and depression,” says James. What is known is that studies show that the condition, which is normally seen in older adults, can be reversed if the depression is treated.

Depression can make the brain less efficient, causing cognitive dullness and confusionand difficulty making decisions,” says Dylan Wint, director of education in Neurodegenerative Disorders and fellowship director in Cognitive Disorders for the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health at Cleveland Clinic.

“There is also evidence that important memory structures in the brain can be reduced during episodes of depression. It is not clear what causes this contraction, but the structures appear to recover once the episode of depression resolves.”


“Stroke, head injury, concussion, anything that physically happens to the brain is a risk factor for dementia because it affects the physical structure of brain tissuesays James.

Head injuries caused by sports or automobile accidents in younger adults and those caused by falls, especially in the elderly, can cause subdural hematomas (bleeding between the surface of the brain and the covering over the brain) and can cause symptoms similar to those of dementia, such as memory loss and confusion.

While some trauma can cause permanent brain damage, research shows that these symptoms can be reversed with medication or surgery.

nutritional deficiencies

Most of us get sufficient amounts of vitamin B-12 from the foods we eat (dairy, eggs, meat, and fish), but some people have a vitamin B-12 deficiency caused by a rare condition called pernicious anemia, which if left untreated it can cause symptoms that mimic dementia.

People with this condition are not able to absorb vitamin B-12 from the foods they eat, and deficiency can lead to confusion, irritability, and listlessness. Fortunately, regular injections of B-12 can cure the deficiency and alleviate the symptoms.

Other deficiencies that can cause dementia symptoms include dehydration, not getting enough vitamins B-1 or B-6, or consuming too little or too much sodium or calcium. Research has also shown a link between insufficient amounts of vitamin D and dementia.

“In the United States, these deficiencies are most commonly caused by having a diet that is poor in variation and/or quality, such as eating junk food all the time,” says Wint. “This may be the result of lack of knowledge, psychiatric disturbance, substance use or other circumstances.”

Heart and lung problems

Poor cardiovascular health, such as arteriosclerosis (often called “hardening of the arteries”) or anything that prevents good blood flow or too much blood flow to the brain (mini-strokes) can put people at higher risk of impaired memory and dementia, says James.

“If you have good cardiovascular health, you are more likely to have good cognitive health”. Following a heart-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has been shown to slow cognitive decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, another study shows that impaired lung function and chronic lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), which can restrict oxygen levels to the brain, may cause an increased risk of memory loss and dementia.

However, early intervention and treatment of COPD can help delay or even prevent the onset of dementia.


Diabetes causes the body’s blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise above normal (also called hyperglycemia), and when these levels get too high or too low (hypoglycemia), studies have shown that people with this condition they may experience memory loss and other dementia-like symptoms.

In many cases, adjusting sugar levels can reverse the problem, but having diabetes can increase the risk of developing long-term memory problems and has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

“Alzheimer’s disease is often referred to as ‘Type III’ diabetes,” says James.


While alcohol abuse destroys brain cells in areas critical for memory, decision-making, and balance, people who abuse alcohol can experience dementia-like symptoms. because they suffer from a vitamin deficiency.

Thiamine (B-1) helps brain cells make energy, but when levels get too low, brain cells can’t make enough energy to function properly; the result is called Korsakoff syndrome.

“Thiamine is depleted in people who abuse alcohol, James explains, and thiamine deficiency leads to memory loss, confusion, and other cognitive challenges.”

While quitting drinking won’t automatically correct the situation, James says, in some cases the effects can be reversed or avoided all together by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“It is estimated that Up to a third of the risk of dementia can be avoided by doing regular physical exercise, maintaining an active mental life, preventing diabetes, avoiding smoking, eliminating high blood pressure, treating depression, and using alcohol to a minimum. or moderate (1-2 drinks a day),” says Wint.

Taken from 10 Treatable Causes of Dementia—and How to Recognize Them Before It’s Too Late

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