What is Dementia?

Dr. Dean Foti, MD, FRCPC, Behavioural Neurologist, discusses dementia and what causes it.

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Dr. Dean Foti, MD, FRCPC, Behavioural Neurologist, discusses dementia and what causes it.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Dean Foti, MD, FRCPC, Behavioural Neurologist

Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

While dementia is an acquired loss of cognitive skill, so a drop in your memory, or your speaking abilities as well as combined with a drop in your functional abilities. So dementia can have a number of different causes, of course the commonest cause is Alzheimer’s disease.

So people often wonder what’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, well Alzheimer’s is really a type of dementia, just like you’d say a car and then you have a Ford or a Chevrolet.

So dementia involves difficulty with your thinking skills, it could be a progressive memory problem like Alzheimer’s, it could be another problem like a behavioural problem you might see with a frontal lobe dementia or you can also get a dementia from other things such as having a bad head injury or having something like a stroke, or a brain tumour can also give you a dementia kind of problem.

Well you can have a number of different causes for dementia, and some of the other things that can cause dementia are previous brain infections, or new brain infections can cause a dementia problem.

You can also have inflammation problems in the brain that can cause dementia, you can also sometimes see dementia associated with other conditions such as multiple sclerosis can at times cause progressive loss of thinking skills and produce a dementia problem.

So dementia is a general term that really means that you have some cognitive difficulties and you’re also not functioning as well as you used to function. And any condition that affects the brain can produce that.

You sometimes even see dementia problems that are reversible, for example people who have a very bad depression can sometimes show up like they have a dementia but when you treat the depression it reverses.

So there are a few cases where you can see a recovery in which case it’s not a permanent dementia, it’s just a temporary situation.

Well if you’re concerned about any of these symptoms or about somebody that might have dementia that’s close to you, you should probably speak to your family doctor as a first contact, and they may send you on to see somebody else, such as a specialist like a neurologist or a geriatric psychiatrist or a geriatrician.

Depending on what the main symptoms are and how old you are and they may also arrange for other types of assessments so sometimes people can come into the home and look at how you function such as an occupational therapist.


Presenter: Dr. Dean Foti, Neurologist, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Neurologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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