What is the difference between Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia?
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are terms that are often used interchangeably to describe memory loss in elderly people. But they are not the same thing. Not all memory loss is a form of dementia, and there are some differences between Alzheimer ‘s Disease & dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease is one of more than 50 conditions which involve some form of dementia, and though it accounts for approximately 60 % of diagnosed cases of dementia, it can differ greatly, in terms of causes and symptoms, to other forms of dementia.
Some symptoms of some forms of dementia can even be controlled or reversed if caught in time and understanding and recognising the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia is important in early detection, getting the required help and maximising quality of life. Dementia outcomes and progression are determined largely by the type of dementia and the region of the brain which has been affected.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term used to describe a decline in mental ability which is severe enough to interfere with daily life, and which is not attributed to normal ageing. Dementia is not a specific disease, but a collection of symptoms attributed to a range of diseases and causes.
Most dementia’s are progressive and all are caused by some form of damage to brain cells as the result of trauma, inflammation or disease. Symptoms include memory loss, impaired intellectual function and personality change. These changes can greatly impact relationships, independence, personal safety and daily life. Other signs and symptoms include inappropriate behaviour, disorientation, impaired judgement, impaired balance and motor control, agitation and in some cases paranoia and hallucinations. Neglect of personal hygiene, nutrition or safety, a difficulty following directions or asking the same questions repeatedly are common in sufferers.
A combination of lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors are believed to be responsible for dementia. Stokes can disrupt vital oxygen flow to the brain and medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease or Huntington’s Disease progressively attack brain connections and cells. Insulin resistance, metabolic disorders, dehydration, poor nutrition and substance abuse can contribute to dementia. Single or repeated brain injury can, depending on the location, impair cognitive function. Illnesses or infections which affect the central nervous system (including HIV and treatable illnesses such as kidney and liver disease, operable brain tumours and depression-induced pseudodementia) can also lead to dementia.
Memory changes naturally occur with ageing, but these changes are different in Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. For example, an elderly person may struggle to remember directions and how to get from one place to another, but won’t normally get lost in a familiar place. On the other hand, an individual suffering from dementia will regularly get lost in familiar places and take an excessive amount of time to return home.
What Is Alzheimer ‘s Disease?
Protein deposits (plaques and tangles) in the brain are typical with this disease. These proteins hinder communication between brain cells. There is also evidence of nervecell death and damage. Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease include difficulty remembering recent events and names. Apathy and depression are also among the early symptoms.
Other Forms of Dementia
Vascular dementia is the result of changes in the brain’s blood supply, most often as the result of a series of small strokes. Onset can be sudden. Pick’s Disease is more common in females and occurs at an early age. Huntington’s Disease is inherited and causes involuntary movement. Lewy Body Disease is similar to Alzheimer’s Disease but produces hallucinations.