What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

No one wants to go through, or watch as a loved one develops, Alzheimer's or any other type of dementia. Although often used interchangeably Alzheimer's disease is actually one subset of dementia.

Dementia

Dementia is a set of symptoms. Alzheimer's disease is one of many diseases that can cause dementia symptoms. The word "dementia" is used to describe brain-based problems that cause memory issues, interfere with the performance of simple daily activities and negatively impact communication skills.

Alzheimer's Disease

In first-world nations Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. It gets progressively worse over time. There are a few medications and alternative techniques, but to date, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease.

One early indicator of Alzheimer's is a problem recalling things, such as where a person has left their car keys or whether or not they have eaten a meal. At first, these short term memory slipups seem innocent enough. We all forget things from time to time. However, in Alzheimer's the memory issues worsens. Eventually long-term memory is affected as well.

Alzheimer's negatively impacts the brain's ability to speak and process language, communicate properly, store new thought patterns and recall old thought and memories.

Alzheimer's symptoms are common to other forms of dementia. While younger people can develop Alzheimer's, this and other forms of dementia are more often seen in older adults. As you age, especially past the age of 60 or 70, your risk for developing dementia in general, and Alzheimer's specifically, increases dramatically.

Other Dementias

Other types of dementia include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and vascular dementia. Individuals with Parkinson's disease and Pick's disease can also develop dementia. Dementia symptoms can also result from vitamin deficiencies, reactions to medications, etc. Diagnosing the particular cause of dementia in each case is extremely important for proper treatment. There can also be more than one contributor to the dementia resulting in a mixed dementia. 

Dementia is NOT a Part of the "Normal" Aging Process

As many as 50 million people around the world suffer from some form of dementia, with 30 to 35 million of them diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Sadly, mental health experts believe that as many as 3 in 4 people who have Alzheimer's have not been diagnosed. This is due to several factors.

People who see their memory and communication skills slipping are often fearful of reporting the problem. Additionally, many people see their fading memory as an expected part of the aging process. This is concerning. Keep in mind that the earlier Alzheimer's or some other type of dementia is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, there are medications and lifestyle changes that can slow the cognitive decline. It is also extremely important to rule out curable conditions that can cause dementia symptoms.

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