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What Is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term that describes changes in your thinking and memory that interfere with your daily activities.

What Age Does Dementia Start?

Most commonly, dementia starts after age 65.

Why Choose the Cognitive Disorders Clinic?

The Cognitive Disorders Clinic at University of Utah Health is the most comprehensive and longest-running cognitive evaluation center in the Mountain West region. We have a multispecialty team with a breadth of experience not found elsewhere in the region. 

Our clinic is a research center and education resource for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Our interdisciplinary team includes neurologists, neuropsychologists, and specialized social workers. These specialists evaluate and treat cognitive disorders using the most advanced, high-end imaging techniques, diagnostic tools, and treatment options.

Dementia Symptoms

Dementia symptoms can vary and cause changes in many of the following:

  • Behavior and social interactions
  • Depth perception and object recognition
  • Language and comprehension
  • Memory
  • Motor function
  • Problem solving and planning

Early Signs of Dementia

Learn to recognize the early signs of dementia:

  • Changes in behavior
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Difficulty recalling names of close family members or friends
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Impaired judgment
  • Memory loss that affects day-to-day abilities
  • Problems with abstract thinking, such as noticing patterns or understanding complex concepts
  • Word-finding difficulty

Types of Dementia

There are many types of dementia, each with slightly varying symptoms.

  • Alzheimer’s diseaseThis type of dementia causes memory loss and problems with orientation, such as not knowing what date or time of day it is. People who have Alzheimer’s disease often don’t know they’re experiencing behavioral or memory changes.
  • Early onset dementia—This disease starts before age 65 and is much less common than late onset dementia. Genetic forms of dementia sometimes cause early onset dementia. These genetic forms usually happen even earlier, around age 40-50. People with early onset dementia often present with symptoms other than memory problems, such as executive functioning problems or behavioral changes.
  • Frontotemporal dementia—This affects your frontal and temporal lobes (parts of the brain responsible for memory, language, and behavior). Depending on what type of frontotemporal dementia a person has, they may experience noticeable behavioral changes, such as becoming inappropriate or offensive; difficulty saying words correctly, word-finding difficulty, or trouble understanding others.
  • Vascular dementia—This condition is a loss of memory or thinking skills that occurs because of strokes or reduced blood flow in certain parts of the brain. Many people with vascular dementia have a history of strokes. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes also increase risk.
  • Huntington’s disease dementia—This condition is a genetic, progressive brain disorder. Most people think of it primarily as a movement disorder. But it can also affect people’s thinking and memory skills and lead to dementia. 
  • Parkinson’s disease dementia— This condition occurs in people who have a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease then later develop cognitive problems.
  • Dementia with lewy bodiesThis dementia type is a relative of Parkinson’s disease and causes many symptoms, such as sleeping problems, delusions, visual hallucinations, and motor problems.

How Fast Does Dementia Progress?

Most dementias progress slowly, over the course of several years. If you experience cognitive problems that come on quickly and resolve quickly, it’s likely not dementia, but may be a complication of another disorder or injury. Rarely, people can get rapidly progressive forms of dementia, which necessitate urgent evaluation.

Find a Cognitive Disorders Specialist

Schedule a Cognitive Disorders Evaluation

If you or a loved one are having trouble with memory, language, or daily activities, talk about your symptoms with your primary care provider. We accept self-referrals; however, we prefer referrals from a primary care provider or neurologist. You may request an appointment or call 801-585-7575. Before your appointment, please send all previous medical records and brain imaging, if relevant.

To refer a patient to our Cognitive Disorders Clinic, please fill out our referral form and fax it to 801-585-2746.

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