Jul 24

Dementia vs Alzheimer’s Disease

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Dementia vs Alzheimer’s disease. Often confused, the conditions aren’t one in the same. Although symptoms distinguishing the two may overlap, it’s important to be able to distinguish between the two for treatment and symptom management. Read on to learn more about the differences between dementia vs Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia

Dementia is an overall term used to describe symptoms that impact memory, the performance of daily tasks, and communication abilities. In short, dementia is a syndrome, not a disease. A syndrome is defined as a group of symptoms that do not have a definitive diagnosis. Thus, it is often used as an “umbrella” term that Alzheimer’s disease falls under.  As dementia progresses, it can largely impact the ability of a person to function independently and is a major cause of disability among aged adults. According to the World Health Organization, about 47.5 million people around the world live with dementia.

Dementia is most likely to develop in those older in age. It occurs when brain cells are damaged. Conditions that cause dementia include degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s. However, it’s Alzheimer’s disease that’s responsible for approximately 50-70% of all cases of dementia.

Early symptoms are easy to overlook because they can be as simple as episodes of forgetfulness. People with dementia have trouble keeping track of time and tend to lose their way during normal tasks. With time, forgetfulness and confusion increase and it becomes harder for the person to recall names and faces. Personal care also starts to become more difficult. Obvious signs of dementia include repetitious questioning, inadequate hygiene, and poor decision making. In it’s most advanced stage, those with dementia are unable to care for themselves. Keeping track of time and remembering people and places also become a more difficult struggle.  Behavior can start to change with time as well and turn into depression or aggression.

Click here to read about causes of memory loss and how to keep your memory sharp. 

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. The disease tends to worsen over time where it affects memory, language, and thought. It is caused by lost connections to brain cells where the cells begin to die. In advanced cases, the brain may even show signs of shrinkage.

While it is impossible to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease with complete accuracy while a person is alive, specialists are able to make the correct diagnosis up to 90% of the time. This is because the diagnosis can only be confirmed when the brain is examined under microscope during an autopsy.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include a difficulty remembering recent events, apathy, depression, impaired judgement, disorientation, confusion, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, difficulty walking, and behavioral changes as well. The disease also can cause a decline in the ability to think and reason as well as mental and communication impairment.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, treatment options are available to help manage symptoms. These include medications for behavioral changes, memory loss, medications for sleep changes, and alternative medicines that aim to boost brain function, such as coconut or fish oil supplements.

If you are concerned you or a loved one may have the symptoms of dementia vs Alzheimer’s disease, talk to your doctor. Starting treatment early can help you manage symptoms.