Dementia presents as a group of symptoms, and Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia.
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room
When someone is told they have Alzheimer's or dementia, it means they have significant memory problems as well as other cognitive and behavioral issues.
Most of the time dementia is caused by Alzheimer's disease.
- There is great confusion about the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia.
In a nutshell, dementia isn't a specific disease. Instead, dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia.
Alzheimer's vs dementia.
Example #1 - The Difference Between Alzheimer's and Dementia
A good analogy to the term dementia is “fever.” Fever refers to an elevated temperature, indicating that a person is sick. But it does not give any information about what is causing the illness.
In the same way, dementia means that there is something wrong with a person’s brain, but it does not provide any information about what is causing the memory or cognitive difficulties.
Dementia is not a disease - it is the clinical presentation of symptoms of a disease.
Example #2 - The Difference Between Alzheimer's and Dementia
When you to the grocery store you usually visit the section where you will find the fruit. You will see many different kinds of fruit like: apples, oranges, bananas and pears. Each is a kind, or type of fruit.
Let's imagine you could go into a store and visit the dementia section. What would you see?
You would see types of dementia like:
So if an apple is a type of fruit; then Alzheimer's is a type of dementia.
The list above includes the biggest and most common types (kinds) of dementia.
There are of course many things that either contribute to or cause dementia. These include: Parkinson's disease, Huntington’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, depression, and alcoholism just to name a few.
There are many possible causes of dementia like symptoms. Some causes are reversible, such as certain thyroid conditions or vitamin deficiencies.
If these underlying problems are identified and treated, then the dementia reverses and the person can return to normal functioning.
However, most causes of dementia are not reversible. Rather, they are degenerative diseases of the brain that get worse over time.
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, accounting for as many as 70-80% of all cases of dementia.
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Confusion about Alzheimer's and dementia on the part of family and friends
The confusion is felt on the part of patients, family members, the media, and even health care providers.
- “Dementia” is a term that has replaced a more out-of-date word, “senility,” to refer to cognitive changes with advanced age.
- Dementia includes a group of symptoms, the most prominent of which is memory difficulty with additional problems in at least one other area of cognitive functioning, including language, attention, problem solving, spatial skills, judgment, planning, or organization.
- These cognitive problems are a noticeable change compared to the person’s cognitive functioning earlier in life and are severe enough to get in the way of normal daily living, such as social and occupational activities.
Contrary to what some people may think, dementia is not a less severe problem, with Alzheimer's disease being a more severe problem.
- There is not a continuum with dementia on one side and Alzheimer's disease at the extreme. Rather, there can be early or mild stages of Alzheimer's, which then progress to moderate and severe stages of the disease.
- One reason for the confusion about dementia and Alzheimer's disease is that it is not possible to diagnose Alzheimer's with 100% accuracy while someone is alive. Rather, Alzheimer's disease can only truly be diagnosed after death, upon autopsy when the brain tissue is carefully examined by a specialized doctor referred to as a neuropathologist.
- During life, a patient can be diagnosed with “probable Alzheimer's.” This term is used by doctors and researchers to indicate that, based on the person’s symptoms, the course of the symptoms, and the results of various tests, it is very likely that the person will show pathological features of Alzheimer's disease when the brain tissue is examined following death.
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Publisher: Alzheimer's Reading Room
Author: Bob DeMarco
Title: What is The Difference Between Alzheimer's and Dementia
Learn More - Care of Dementia Patients
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Alzheimer's and Dementia Definitions
Dementia isn't a specific disease. Instead, dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning.
Though dementia generally involves memory loss, memory loss has different causes. So memory loss alone doesn't mean you have dementia.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of a progressive dementia in older adults, but there are a number of causes of dementia. Depending on the cause, some dementia symptoms can be reversed.
~ Mayo Clinic
Dementia is a group of symptoms that affects mental cognitive tasks such as memory and reasoning. Dementia is an umbrella term that Alzheimer's disease can fall under. It can occur due to a variety of conditions, the most common of which is Alzheimer's disease. People can have more than one type of dementia.