Dementia: How Different Is It From Alzheimer's?

A lot of people get confused with the terms Dementia and Alzheimer's and often use them interchangeably.  While they have similarities, the two conditions are not the same. 

Dementia is not a disease.  It is the general term that describes a group of symptoms that affects mental cognitive tasks like memory and reasoning skills.  It is a broad term that Alzheimer's disease can fall under.  Alzheimer's is a disease that destroys the brain, and it is the most common cause of dementia.

When a person has dementia, they are diagnosed with a set of symptoms.  Once a cause is found, appropriate treatment and counselling can start. 

Here are the symptoms of dementia:

Early stage - forgetfulness; loss account of time; disorientation in familiar terrain.

Middle stage - forgetfulness about recent events and names of people; violation of the orientation of the house; increasing difficulties in communication; need for assistance to care for themselves; behavioral problems, including aimless, walking and asking the same questions.

Late stage - loss of orientation in time and space; difficulties in the recognition of relatives and friends; the increasing need for assistance to care for themselves; difficulties in walking; behavioral changes that may escalate and include aggression.

About 50 to 70 percent of dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer's.  Other conditions such as Parkinson's Disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease can also cause dementia. 

According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's Disease is a specific type of dementia which is caused when high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells make it hard for brain cells to stay healthy and to communicate with each other.

This then leads to the loss of connections between nerve cells, and the death of nerve cells and loss of brain tissue eventually.  Most symptoms appear at the age of 60, but it is important to note that Alzheimer's is not a part of aging.  The disease progresses at different speeds, but the risk increases after the age of 65. 

Treatment for dementia depends on the cause, but there are drug treatments that may temporarily improve symptoms.  However, Alzheimer's is incurable.  But researchers are continually looking for treatments to alter the course of the disease.

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