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Dementia is a condition of reduced mental function - such as in thinking, language, learning, judgment, memory and reasoning - that becomes severe enough to affect a person's independent daily functioning.
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. People who have experienced head trauma or repeated concussions, such as boxers, football players and soldiers, may also develop dementia.
Dementia is considered a late-life disease because it tends to develop mostly in elderly people, although younger people may also develop dementia. Almost half of people over the age of 85 have dementia.
Some dementias can be successfully treated; however, these include conditions caused by side effects of medications, tumors, alcohol, infections, pressure from a head injury that causes an accumulation of blood in the head, vitamin deficiencies, and low thyroid or blood levels. Dementia caused by leukemia or brain infections such as meningitis, encephalitis, untreated syphilis or untreated Lyme disease may also be treatable.
Most types of dementia are not curable and not reversible, but may respond to medication for memory loss. These include dementias caused by Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, stroke, Parkinson's disease, AIDS dementia complex and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.