There are different forms and causes of dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Society, dementia is a general term for any form of decline in memory and communication skills which can be so severe that it can hinder a person's daily routine.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and affects the memory, thinking and speaking abilities of a person. Dementia or Alzheimer's can affect anyone at any age, but it generally affects the older people.
Knowing the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's is important since it can empower, educate and raise awareness among the patients of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, and it can also be helpful to their family and caretakers.
Dementia vs Alzheimer's
According to the World Health Organisation, 47.5 million around the world suffer from dementia.
Dementia is considered a syndrome. A syndrome is a phenomenon with a group of symptoms without a specific diagnosis. The syndrome affects mental cognitive health of the patient like their memory and reasoning skills. Dementia is an umbrella term and Alzheimer's falls under its umbrella. Alzheimer's can be a cause of dementia.
A person may suffer from more than one form of dementia, the phenomenon is known as mixed dementia. There can be various reasons for mixed dementia and it is diagnosed only through an autopsy. A person suffering any form of dementia becomes dependent on their families financially and emotionally.
According to the US NIH, though Alzheimer's can affect a person of any age, the symptoms are more evident in people older than 60.
Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that slowly damages the cognitive skills and memory of a person. Researchers are still trying to find a cause and cure for Alzheimer's.
Dementia vs Alzheimer's: Symptoms
The early signs of dementia are usually not so evident and can be considered as mild. A person experiences symptoms like forgetfulness, where they find it difficult to keep track of time or forgets their way to a frequently visited place.
As the condition progresses, they tend to be more forgetful and confused wherein they may start to forget the face and names of their loved ones. The behaviour continues to change and might result in depression or aggression.
In Alzheimer's brain begins to get damaged long before the symptoms are visible. Alzheimer's may cause the brain to shrink and lose the connection.
Let's have a look on the symptoms of these conditions as mentioned by the doctors at Mayo Clinic to be more clear.
Symptoms of Dementia are as follows:
Loss of memory noticed by others
Difficulty in communication
Difficulty in recognising visuals or images
Poor decision making or problem solving
Inability to plan or organise
InabilIty to perform complex tasks
Feeling confused and disoriented
According Mayo Clinic, symptoms of Alzheimer's include:
Forgetting recent conversation or events
Repeating questions and statements
Misplacing their possessions
Unable to find their way back in familiar places
Forgetting the names of friends or family
Difficulty in using the right words, expressing thoughts, etc
Dementia vs Alzheimer's: Causes
Generally, the risk of dementia increases as you age but several factors can be a cause for dementia like the few degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkison's, or Hanington's.
Brain cells are generally damaged in dementia and about 60-80% of dementia cases are caused due to Alzheimer's. Dementia affects different parts of the brain and that is why the symptoms may differ in people. Other causes may include:
Excessive drug use
According to Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer's may be caused due to genetic mutations, tangles and plaques formation in the brain. Plaques are the group of proteins called beta-amyloids and the tangles are made of tau-protein. These damage the healthy neurons of the brain cells and affect their connectivity.
Dementia vs Alzheimer's: Treatment
There are various treatments for Alzheimer's and dementia that may overlap, but treatment can be different depending upon the cause of the condition and the part of brain it affects.
According to Mayo Clinic, treatment of dementia depends on the cause of the condition:
Dementia caused due to vascular damage will be treated with medicines to prevent strokes.
Dementia caused due to Alzheimer's or Parkinson's may be treated with Cholinesterase inhibitors.
A supportive care at home, by a caregiver or at a nursing home is important.
Mayo Clinic further says the options for treatment of Alzheimer's include:
Memantine that affects the memory and learning and can be taken only with cholinesterase inhibitors
Cholinesterase inhibitors that improves your memory and judgement
Occupational therapies to make a patient feel safer and help him with the coping strategies
Medications for depression or sleep changes may also be prescribed