The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s disease” tend to be used interchangeably, as many people think they are the same thing. (2) Even though a person who gets afflicted with Alzheimer’s ends up getting dementia, the thing to note is that not all forms of dementia are because of Alzheimer’s disease. People can get dementia without Alzheimer’s as well. This is why it is important for people to know the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, as they are two different, albeit related, things.
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What is Dementia?
Dementia can be described as being a group of symptoms. It is not a disease. It can best be described as a mental problem that affects the mind of the person. (5) Many different conditions can cause dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. However, the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is that even though all patients of Alzheimer’s end up getting dementia, not all dementia patients have Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia is a progressively degenerative disorder. This means that it starts slowly and steadily and it starts to interfere more and more in the person’s life. It can have a very negative effect on the lifestyle of the afflicted person, as people tend to become increasingly dependent on others, as they are not able to perform their daily tasks easily.
It requires a lot of effort for people to do simple things, such as go to the bathroom, or to have food. (7) This is because severe dementia can cause people to forget that they have to eat. In this regard, dementia is something that can cause disability in older people, and it also places a lot of burden – both financially as well emotional – on the families of the afflicted persons. It has to be noted that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as 35.6 million people around the world have dementia.
Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia is a slow degenerative disorder, which means that in its early stages, it can be extremely difficult to diagnose. The early symptoms are quite mild and it is very easy to overlook them. (3) The first signs include people easily forgetting many common and routine things. People with dementia also start to have problems with regards to keeping track of time. They tend to get lost even in places where they have lived their whole lives.
As noted earlier, dementia is a progressive disorder, which means that it gets worse as the person ages. This means that the signs tend to get worse with time and people’s forgetfulness as well as confusion starts to get bigger and much more pronounced. (1) People also start to forget the names and faces of those around them, even their loved ones, such as children and siblings.
Aside from these problems, it can also become extremely difficult for the patients with regards to their personal care. People tend to keep repeating their questions and statements and are not able to take care of their personal hygiene, as well as exhibit extremely poor decision-making skills.
In the last stages of dementia, the patients’ health can become so poor that they are not able to take care of themselves independently and they require a nurse or some kind of assistance to be able to live. This is something that can lead to aggression and depression.
What Causes Dementia?
Several things can cause dementia; however, one of the leading causes of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. This is where the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia comes in. We find that people tend to develop dementia because of Alzheimer’s; however, dementia can also be caused by Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and many other ailments, such as blunt trauma to the head. (4) Other than that, infections, such as HIV as well as various vascular diseases and even stroke can work to induce dementia in people.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes a progressive degeneration of the brain. It starts with impairment of memory and cognitive functions, which later turns into dementia. This is the main difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia. (7) Scientists are still trying to find out the exact nature of Alzheimer’s with regards to its causes as well as treatment options.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than five million people in the US tend to be afflicted with Alzheimer’s. It has to be noted that even though most of the patients of Alzheimer’s are aged 60 and above, younger people can also get the disease.
The Brain on Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease causes damage to the brain and this damage can begin many years before the symptoms of the illness start to appear. When abnormal protein deposits start to form plaques and tangles in the brain, it results in the connections between cells to be lost. The cells, therefore, begin to die. Moreover, it has to be noted that the brain also starts to shrink on Alzheimer’s.
A very interesting thing to note is that a hundred percent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can only be done after the person has died and an autopsy has been performed. (6) In this regard, we find that brain has to be put under a microscope for the researchers to see whether or not it has been affected by Alzheimer’s. Nevertheless, some diagnostic tools can allow doctors to diagnose the illness with 90% accuracy.
Treatment for Dementia
Dementia tends to be a progressively degenerative disease that can be extremely difficult to treat. (8) In this regard, some forms of dementia, such as those caused by a certain type of drugs, or tumors, can be treated. However, in most cases, dementia cannot be reversed. It is only feasible and possible to manage dementia through medication as well as through counseling.
It has to be noted that in many cases, dementia tends to provide a set of symptoms that describe several underlying conditions. Patients are often found to have various different conditions that contribute to dementia. As noted, the most common cause is Alzheimer’s.