While similar in some respects, dementia and Alzheimer’s are not the same thing, and it’s important to know the differences in these two medical terms. It is important for caregivers, family members, and loved ones to know the difference between these two so that an accurate medical history can be maintained for the best possible care and treatment.
Dementia is a syndrome, or a group of different symptoms and conditions that affect brain function on a general level. The conditions present in a person with dementia include memory loss, trouble with reasoning, decreased attention span, lapses in judgment, mood changes, disorientation and increased gullibility, to name a few.
While Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of dementia, dementia can be the result of many other diseases and conditions including Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (mad cow disease), and vascular dementia/disease. Dementia can be the result of issues and problems with the neurological system, cardiovascular system, improper protein buildup, and other arrays of conditions.
Alzheimer’s is a specific disease and form of dementia, as opposed to a general grouping of symptoms and conditions, though it is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is caused by protein and plaque buildup in a person’s brain, resulting in nerve signals being blocked and nerve cells being destroyed. There are a number of early signals for Alzheimer’s, and over time, a person’s memory fades, they become confused, susceptible to mood swings among other changes. Unlike some forms of general dementia, Alzheimer’s disease cannot be reversed and there is no current cure.
Interchanging “Alzheimer’s” with “Dementia” could rule out many other causes for a person’s dementia, particularly those related to problems in areas other than a person’s nervous system, like vascular dementia. Miscommunicating a person’s Alzheimer’s or general dementia may result in that person losing out on important treatment.
Vigilantly monitoring a loved one’s mental and physical condition as they age is key to early detection of both dementia and Alzheimer’s. The sooner that symptoms are detected, the sooner that doctors are able to diagnose correctly the exact cause of the symptoms, and the sooner your loved one can start receiving the right care.
However, there are a number of lifestyle changes that you can make to help prevent the onset of both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, including eating and sleeping better, socializing, and exercise. If you suspect that a loved one or family member is starting to show symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s do not hesitate to relay this information to them and start getting them treatment.
Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing and is currently writing for Martinson & Beason, PC. He’s written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, playing his guitar or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.