Dementia

Updated 24 May 2016

Causes of dementia

Damage to brain cells is the leading cause of dementia. This damage impairs communication between brain cells and may affect communication, thinking and behaviour.

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Alzheimer’s disease causes more than half of all cases of dementia.

In 25% of cases, dementia is caused by blockages in the small blood vessels in the brain, which is known as vascular dementia. Trauma or head injury has been shown to result in dementia in about 15% of cases. People with diabetes and hypertension are also at risk of getting dementia.

There are a number of other common causes of dementia, which include:

- Chronic infections

- Poor nutrition

- Heavy drinking over a long period of time

- Parkinson’s disease

- Hypothyroidism

- Brain tumours

- Multiple sclerosis

- Renal (kidney) failure

- Liver disorders

- Inherited disorders such as Huntington’s disease and Tay-Sachs disease

-  Vitamin B1 (thiamine) or B12 deficiency

- Toxins (e.g. heavy metal poisoning)

Read more: 

What is dementia?

Treating dementia

Symptoms of dementia

Reviewed by Dr Duncan Ian Rodseth, MB Bch MMed (psych). Consultant Psychiatrist in private practice, Parktown Johannesburg. March 2015