While “Alzheimer’s disease” and “dementia” are two terms that are frequently used interchangeably, it is vital to identify the distinction between the two. They are not the same.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are brain diseases that are very different from normal aging memory problems. It may be distressing for those suffering from these diseases, but it is not a hopeless situation. Understanding the key differences in dementia vs. Alzheimer’s disease will be beneficial.
Defining Dementia Disorders
Dementia is a general term to describe a group of brain disorders that make it difficult to perform cognitive tasks, Alzheimer’s disease is one of them. In other words, while Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, not all dementias are Alzheimer’s.
Other examples of dementia include Lewy body, vascular, frontotemporal, and mixed dementia.
Differences in Symptoms
A doctor may struggle to determine what type of dementia you or a loved one has because some symptoms are similar. To aid them in making a proper diagnosis, informing them in detail of all the symptoms, medication and alcohol use, and previous illnesses will be advantageous.
Some of the symptoms of dementia include memory loss, difficulty with cognitive thinking, and mood swings. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are similar to those of other types of dementia, but there are some differences to take note of. Other dementias, for example, may prioritize certain symptoms over others. Changes in personality are more noticeable in the early stages of frontotemporal dementia, whereas memory decline often occurs later.
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, symptoms such as disorientation, confusion, and behavioral changes become more severe. Simple activities like speaking and walking may eventually become a struggle to complete.
Effect on The Brain
The area of the brain affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s differs. While Alzheimer’s disease affects the majority of the brain, frontotemporal dementia primarily affects the frontal and temporal lobes – areas of the brain associated with personality and behavior. This is why changes in personality are more noticeable in the early stages of frontotemporal dementia than in Alzheimer’s.
Differentiating Risks Factors
The risk factors for the various types of dementia tend to overlap, but some types are highly influenced and determined by a specific factor than others.
Having a stroke can result in vascular dementia. During a stroke, the blood flow to the brain is blocked, causing brain cells to die due to a lack of oxygen, resulting in dementia. As a result, having a stroke increases the likelihood of developing vascular dementia.
Even one of the most uncommon types of dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, has a strong genetic component. There is a high likelihood that a child will inherit the disease if their parent’s genes meet the criteria for it.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or most other types of dementia. Current treatment approaches are geared mainly toward assisting people in maintaining the mental function, managing behavioral symptoms, and slowing or delaying disease symptoms.
Practical lifestyle changes can be made to slow the progression of dementia, and others, such as family members or healthcare professionals, can be involved in the individual’s daily life activities.