Dementia and Alzheimer’s are often mistakenly used as synonyms in place of the other, erroneously believing that both are the same. Dementia is just a general term for several symptoms concerning mental disorders or decline in memory, and Alzheimer’s is the most common form of Dementia disorder itself. This is not the entire picture though, there are major differences between dementia and Alzheimer’s, and it’s key to know them for correct treatment.
In this article, we will discuss in detail how Dementia and Alzheimer’s are different from each other.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a term for any mental condition affecting the brain and memory. It is a progressive disease that impacts thinking, language, memory, judgment and leads to cognitive decline, personality changes, and even death in some cases.
In their senior years, people may fall prey to memory loss and assume it is Dementia. However, suffering from memory loss does not always imply Dementia. Though it can be a sign of young-onset Dementia, it could have different causes. Memory loss may be linked to a particular medication; it can be due to other health conditions, such as depression. Alcohol abuse and Alzheimer’s disease are also some of the leading causes that lead to memory loss in the golden age.
Causes of Dementia
Dementia is a condition of the brain that impacts the brain and memory. It can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, environment, and lifestyle. The causes of Dementia are unknown in many cases. However, some factors may increase your chances of developing Dementia. These include:
High blood pressure: High BP is a risk factor for Dementia. It damages blood vessels as well as blood capillaries leading to the brain. This further restricts blood flow and causes Vascular Dementia.
65+ years of age: Dementia due to advancing age is a common problem that affects seniors. It is characterised by memory loss, confusion, and impaired judgment. It can be treated with medications and a healthy lifestyle involving physical exercise, a healthy diet, and social engagement.
Family history of Dementia: Dementia due to heredity impacts people who have a family history of Dementia or those genetically predisposed to it. The risk for developing elderly Dementia due to heredity increases with age, although it can strike people at any age, including children and young adults.
Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia is a condition that affects the brain and gets worse over time. It can be difficult to diagnose because it often has no symptoms in the early stages. It can make people forget who they are, where they are, and what they are doing.
Early symptoms of Dementia include:
Memory loss: The symptoms of memory loss are difficulty remembering recent events, remembering names or faces, forgetting how to do things like ride a bike or drive a car, and having trouble finding words when speaking or writing.
Confusion: Dementia impacts the brain’s ability to function properly. Cognitive decline results in confusion. A patient may get confused in the following ways:
- Confusion about time, place, or people’s names
- Difficulty with planning and organizing tasks or activities
- Difficulty with language comprehension or speaking
Personality changes: It is normal for dementia patients to encounter personality changes. The personality changes are often subtle and may go unnoticed by friends and family members who are not familiar with the signs of dementia disease. They are sometimes temporary but get harder to let go of as we age.
The most common personality changes because of Dementia include:
- Decreased interest in activities
- Decreased ability to communicate
- Increased irritability
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a disorder that causes the brain’s neurological connections and cells to wither and perish, resulting in the loss of memory and other mental processes. It is the most common form of Dementia and is estimated to affect more than 50 million people worldwide by 2050.
There are many types of Alzheimer’s, but they all have one thing in common – they cause memory loss. It starts with mild forgetfulness or difficulty remembering recent events and progresses.
Alzheimer’s has no cure, but some treatments can help manage symptoms. Common remedies include medications for depression or anxiety; physical therapy for balance or walking problems; speech therapy for communication issues; and social support from those who empathise with the patient.
Causes of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease characterized by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. The accumulation of these plaques and tangles leads to cell deaths, eventually leading to Dementia. It is also attributed to many other factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and environmental conditions.
With time, as the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s may lead to a severe decline in mental health. And as the disease progresses from mild to severe, patients may have trouble performing daily tasks, like having a conversation or making decisions. Patients are often unable to remember what happened the previous day, called the amnesic stage of Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
The symptoms are not always obvious and include memory loss, difficulty in performing daily activities, problems with thinking and decision-making, and confusion. People often mistake these changes to result from ageing, depression, or stress. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s can vary depending on the stage of the disease.
In most cases, symptoms first appear during late middle age, but in some cases, they might start at any time between late middle age and early old age. Alzheimer’s symptoms and their effect on the brain is so severe that only a few people endure. However, not everyone who experiences these symptoms will develop the last stage of Alzheimer’s.
Following are the early signs of Alzheimer’s:
- Memory loss
- Lost sense of time or place
- A problem in speaking or writing
- Frequent mood changes
How Are Dementia and Alzheimer’s Different From Each Other?
The main difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s is that the former is a broad medical condition, while the latter is a particular mental disorder of Dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the main cause of Dementia, a set of mental disorders characterised by deterioration in memory, language, and other higher-level cognitive functions. This disease can develop gradually over many years or in response to an injury or traumatic brain injury. Symptoms often begin with forgetfulness and confusion.
Thoughts on Dementia Vs Alzheimer’s
After going through the details of both Dementia and Alzheimer’s, you would surely be able to care better for your loved ones and help get the right treatment for them. However, taking care of seniors with such progressive cognitive diseases can be challenging while, on the other hand, ensuring best practices can slow down the ailments too.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Dementia is a broad term concerned with mental conditions that affect memory, while Alzheimer’s is a particular disease that causes damage to cognitive function and memory.
Dementia is not directly responsible for death. But the damage to the brain and body caused due to Dementia may lead to the death of a patient.
Early signs of Dementia are as follows:
Difficulty in finding the apt words
Problems in motor functions
Problems in handling complex tasks
Losing sense of direction while driving
In this dementia test, a patient is asked to draw a clock on a piece of paper. If they couldn’t draw it as it should, it is considered a sign of cognitive decline (Dementia).
In most cases, patients don’t know that they have fallen prey to Dementia.