Dementia causes

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Dementia Microchapters

Patient Information




Differential Diagnosis

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Vindhya BellamKonda, M.B.B.S [2]


There are several theories behind the formation of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The amyloid hypothesis is currently the most commonly accepted explanation.

A second theory is that Alzheimer disease (AD) is caused by an abnormal aggregation of the tau protein, a microtubule-associated protein that stabilizes microtubules in the cell. Dementia is caused by a neurodegenerative disease .These produce overlapping clinical syndromes. Less common neurodegenerative disorders such as progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), corticobasal degeneration (CBD), multisystem atrophy, and Huntington disease can also be associated with dementia[1]


Common causes include:

  1. Alcoholism
  2. Alzheimer's Disease
  3. Binswanger's Disease
  4. Drugs
  5. Multi-infarct disease
  6. Parkinson's Disease
  7. Smoking
  8. Midlife obesity

There several other causes of dementia mentioned in table below :

Cardiovascular Chronic heart failure, Dural arteriovenous fistula,Subdural hematoma, Vascular dementia, Feigenbaum-Bergeron-Richardson syndrome
Chemical / poisoning Aluminium poisoning , Benzene , Camphor , Carbon Tetrachloride , Cidofovir, Cocaine, Hydrogen Sulfide, Lead poisoning, Manganese poisoning, Marijuana abuse, Mercury poisoning, Methanol , Toluene , Xylene
Dermatologic Dykes-Markes-Harper syndrome
Drug Side Effect Amphetamines, Anticholinergics, Anxiolytics, Barbiturates, Bromides, Conjugated estrogens/bazedoxifene, Estropipate, Hypnotics, Nabilone, Pramipexole, Progesterone, Sedatives, Tranquilizers, Tricyclic antidepressants
Ear Nose Throat No underlying causes
Endocrine Alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing syndrome , Cushing's syndrome, Hashimoto's encephalitis , Schilder's Disease , Hypothyroidism, Hyperparathyroidism, Hypoparathyroidism, Hyperthyroidism
Environmental Decompression sickness
Gastroenterologic Aguecheek disease , Dykes-Markes-Harper syndrome , Liver failure, Wilson's disease
Genetic Aceruloplasminemia , Adult Polyglucosan Body Disease , Alexander Syndrome , Alpers Syndrome ,Amelo-cerebro-hypohidrotic syndrome , Batten Disease , CADASIL , Down syndrome , Familial histiocytic reticulosis, Hemochromatosis, Menke disease, Mohr-Tranebjaerg syndrome, Wilson's disease, Wolfram's disease ,Wright dick syndrome
Hematologic Familial histiocytic reticulosis, Macrocytosis, Pernicious anemia
Iatrogenic Aluminium (dialysis related) toxicity
Infectious Disease Acute Bokhoror , AIDS, Borreliosis, HHV-6 encephalitis, HIV, Intracranial abscess / granuloma, Kuru, Lyme disease , Neurosyphilis , Whipple's disease
Musculoskeletal / Ortho No underlying causes
Neurologic Adult Polyglucosan Body Disease , Akinetic-rigid syndromes, Alexander Syndrome , Alpers Syndrome ,Alzheimer disease , Amelo-cerebro-hypohidrotic syndrome , Amyloidosis, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Autoimmune limbic encephalitis , Batten Disease , Binswanger Disease , Bovine spongiform encephalopathy , Brain tumor,CADASIL , Cerebellar ataxias, Cerebral Atrophy , Cerebrotendinous Xanthomatosus , Cerebrovascular accident,Ceroid lipofuscinosis, Childhood disintegrative disorder, Choreoacanthocytosis amyotrophic , Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Dural arteriovenous fistula, Ependymoma , Fahr's Syndrome , Feigenbaum-Bergeron-Richardson syndrome ,Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease, Giant axonal neuropathy , Gliomatosis cerebri , Guam disease ,Hallervorden-Spatz Syndrome , HARP syndrome, Hartnup's disease, Haw River syndrome, Heidenhain syndrome ,Huntington's disease, Hydrocephalus, Intracranial space-occupying lesion, Jensen syndrome, Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma , Lafora disease , Leukoencephalopathy , Low press hydrocephalus, Marchiafava-Bignami disease ,MELAS , Mesulam syndrome, Metachromatic Leukodystrophy , Mitochondrial encephalopathies, Mohr-Tranebjaerg syndrome, Multiple sclerosis, Nasu-Hakola disease, Neuroaxonal dystrophy, Neuroferritinopathy, Neurosarcoidosis, Normal pressure hydrocephalus , Parkinson's disease, Pick's disease , Prion diseases, Rasmussen encephalitis, Schilder's Disease , Spinocerebellar ataxia, Shy-Drager Syndrome, Steel-Richardson Syndrome,Spongiform encephalopathy , Stroke, Subdural hematoma, Tome-Brune-Fardeau syndrome , Tuberous sclerosis, Van Bogaert disease , Van der Knaap disease, Westphal-Leyden ataxia , Wright dick syndrome
Nutritional / Metabolic Aceruloplasminemia , Acute intermittent porphyrias, Cerebrotendinous Xanthomatosus , Ceroid lipofuscinosis, Chronic hypocalcemia, Chronic hypoglycemia , Decreased folate , Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, Lysosomal storage diseases, MELAS , Menke disease, Mucopolysaccharidosis, Niacin deficiency, Niemann-Pick Disease,Nutritional deficiency ,Pellagra, Siderosis , Tay Sachs , Thiamine deficiency, Uremic encephalopathy ,Vitamin B12 deficiency, Vitamin B6 deficiency, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Obstetric/Gynecologic Postpartum thyroiditis
Oncologic Brain tumor, Ependymoma , Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma , Melanoma , Meningioma,Paraneoplastic syndromes
Opthalmologic No underlying causes
Overdose / Toxicity No underlying causes
Psychiatric No underlying causes
Pulmonary No underlying causes
Renal / Electrolyte Kidney failure
Rheum / Immune / Allergy Autoimmune limbic encephalitis , Sarcoid, SLE, Tuberous sclerosis, Vasculitis
Sexual No underlying causes
Trauma Head injury
Urologic No underlying causes
Dental No underlying causes
Miscellaneous Alcohol Withdrawal , Alcoholism , Glue sniffing, Prion diseases, Punch-drunk syndrome, Post anoxia

Causes in Alphabetical Order

Mnemonics to remember causes

Dementia: treatable causes


  • Drug toxicity
  • Emotional (depression, anxiety, OCD, etc.)
  • Metabolic (electrolytes, liver dz, kidney dz, COPD)
  • Eyes/ Ears (peripheral sensory restrictions)
  • Nutrition (vitamin, iron deficiencies/ NPH [Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus]
  • Tumors/ Trauma (including chronic subdural hematoma)
  • Infection (meningitis, encephalitis, pneumonia, syphilis)
  • Arteriosclerosis and other vascular disease

Dementia: some common causes


  • Diabetes
  • Ethanol
  • Medication
  • Environmental (eg CO poisoning)
  • Nutritional
  • Trauma
  • Infection
  • Alzheimer's[2]

Dementia: reversible dementia causes



  1. Clarfield AM (September 1988). "The reversible dementias: do they reverse?". Ann Intern Med. 109 (6): 476–86. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-109-6-476. PMID 3046450.
  2. Morris JC (2003). "Dementia update 2003". Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 17 (4): 245–58. doi:10.1097/00002093-200310000-00010. PMID 14657790.
  3. Caselli RJ (September 2003). "Current issues in the diagnosis and management of dementia". Semin Neurol. 23 (3): 231–40. doi:10.1055/s-2003-814743. PMID 14722819.
  4. Knopman DS, Boeve BF, Petersen RC (October 2003). "Essentials of the proper diagnoses of mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and major subtypes of dementia". Mayo Clin. Proc. 78 (10): 1290–308. doi:10.4065/78.10.1290. PMID 14531488.

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