Tim Williamson

Mind & Brain

Can Dementia Come on Suddenly?

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Tim Williamson, (2023, April 3). Can Dementia Come on Suddenly?. Psychreg on Mind & Brain. https://www.psychreg.org/can-dementia-come-on-suddenly/
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Dementia is a term used to describe a range of symptoms associated with a decline in cognitive ability that can interfere with a person’s daily activities. Some common symptoms of dementia include memory loss, difficulty with language, and changes in mood and behaviour. While dementia typically develops gradually over time, there are cases where it may appear suddenly.

Can dementia come on suddenly?

Dementia can develop suddenly in some cases, although this is not common. When dementia appears abruptly, it is referred to as acute or rapidly progressive dementia. This is a rare condition that can occur due to various factors such as infections, autoimmune disorders, and certain types of cancers. The disease can develop within a few weeks or months.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease causes a rapidly progressive form of dementia, while other more prevalent types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia, and dementia with Lewy bodies, have a slower progression rate.

Aside from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, other types of dementia that can develop suddenly are vascular dementia, which occurs as a result of a stroke or brain injury, and dementia with Lewy bodies, which results from the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain.

Factors that can contribute to sudden onset dementia

Several factors may contribute to the sudden onset of dementia, including:

  • Infections. Certain infections, such as meningitis or encephalitis, can cause inflammation in the brain and lead to dementia-like symptoms.
  • Brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries, such as those sustained in a car accident or fall, can damage the brain and cause cognitive impairment.
  • Medications. Some medications, such as those used to treat Parkinson’s disease, can cause cognitive impairment as a side effect.
  • Metabolic disorders. Disorders such as hypothyroidism or vitamin deficiencies can cause cognitive impairment.
  • Toxic exposure. Exposure to certain chemicals, such as lead or mercury, can cause cognitive impairment.

It’s important to note that while dementia can come on suddenly in some cases, it’s much more common for it to develop gradually over time. If you or a loved one are experiencing sudden changes in cognitive ability or behaviour, it’s important to seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.


While it’s possible for dementia to come on suddenly, it’s not the norm. Rapidly progressive dementia is a rare condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including infections, brain injury, and certain types of cancers. If you’re concerned about changes in cognitive ability or behaviour, it’s important to seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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