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What is dementia?

Feb 12, 2003

My Aunt has been ill and we thought she had Alzhiemer's disease. She is elderly. She has been diagnosed with Dementia. What is Dementia? Is it a form of Alzhiemer's?

Response from Dr. Horwath

Dementia is a disorder in which a person develops multiple cognitive deficits. Dementia always involves memory impairment, and usually involves impairment of several other cognitive areas, e.g. language problems, problems in carrying out tasks, problems in recognizing or identifying familiar objects and people, and problems in executive functioning (calculating, abstracting, reasoning, planning, organizing, sequencing).

Dementia may be caused by several different diseases. In the U.S., the most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, which occurs in about 2% to 4% of people over 65 years of age. The risk of developing Alzheimer's disease increases with age. It usually develops insidiously, and progresses slowly.

Other causes of dementia are cerebrovascular disease (disease of the blood circulation to the brain), head trauma, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and HIV infection.

HIV-associated dementia occurs primarily in people who have very advanced AIDS. The risk for HIV-associated dementia is increased with a high viral load and a low CD4 count.

Women with HIV

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