The Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Posted on November 16, 2016 · Posted in Grand Oaks

In honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, let’s address the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Most people understand what both imply: memory loss, impaired communication, poor judgment, confusion, etc. But what many don’t realize is that dementia does not necessarily denote Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia, once referred to as simply being “senile”, is actually the general umbrella term for symptoms such as memory loss and impaired cognitive function. Dementia can be caused by a number of things, one of the most prominent and well-known being Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for around 60-80 percent of all dementia cases, as cited by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer's

In addition to Alzheimer’s, dementia can be caused by a handful of other diseases and conditions. Some alternative causes of dementia include:

  • Vascular dementia
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Brain tumors
  • Vitamin deficiencies

While dementia is characterized as damage to the brain cells, Alzheimer’s is more specifically caused by deposits of the protein fragment beta amyloid and tangled strands of the tau protein, in addition to brain cell damage. This cell damage often occurs first in the brain’s hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with memory and learning. For this reason, memory loss can often be one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Certain forms of dementia are reversible, such as dementia caused by depression, vitamin deficiencies, alcohol abuse, or brain tumors. Unfortunately, dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease is not curable, and conditions will only continue to get worse throughout the disease’s progression. If you notice a loved one exhibiting signs of dementia, schedule an appointment with a physician to determine what exactly is behind your loved one’s regular forgetfulness or confusion. If the dementia is caused by something reversible, early recognition can greatly improve your loved one’s quality of life.

For more information on Alzheimer’s or dementia, visit www.alz.org

For more information on Alzheimer’s or dementia care at home, visit http://www.vnaflorida.org/home-care-and-personal-assistance-services/alzheimers-care/

Sources: The New York Times, Alzheimer’s Association