What is meant by reversible dementia?

More than 50 conditions can cause or imitate the symptoms of dementia. A small percentage of dementias are reversible, meaning the symptoms subside and the underlying problem is treated.

Traumatic head injuries, occurring from accidents, such as car wrecks or falls, assaults or from sports, such as boxing or football, can cause brain damage which could lead to dementia.

In this condition, the dementia can be all or partially reversed, depending on the severity of the damage.

Brain infections, such as meningitis and encephalitis, can be primary causes of dementia due to inflammation, which damages brain cells.

Another reversible dementia is normal pressure hydrocephalus, in which the brain floats in the cerebrospinal fluid and fluid fills the cerebral ventricles.

The fluid pressure rises inside the skull and compresses the brain tissue from outside, causing severe damage.

If diagnosed early, the pressure can be reduced by putting in a shunt, which stops the dementia, gait problems and incontinence from getting worse.

Someone with a brain tumor can experience symptoms of dementia as the tumor can press on structures that control hormone secretion.

The tumor can also press directly on brain cells and damage them, causing cognitive impairment. Treating the tumor, medically or surgically, can sometimes reverse the symptoms of dementia.

Working around solvents or heavy metal dust and fumes (environmental toxins) without adequate protective gear can cause damage to brain cells and lead to dementia.

Some exposures can be treated, and the dementia reversed, but further exposure should be avoided.

Metabolic disorders can cause or mimic symptoms of dementia. Diseases of the liver, pancreas or kidneys, for instance, can lead to dementia by disrupting the balance of salts and other chemicals in the blood.

More often than not, these changes occur rapidly and affect the person’s level of consciousness which causes delirium. Treatment of the underlying causes can fully reverse the condition.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.