The terms ‘Alzheimer’s’ and ‘Dementia’ are often used equivalently, but both aren’t the same. Dementia isn’t any particular disease; instead, it’s a term that describes various symptoms that affect communication abilities, reasoning power, and memory. Eventually, these affect an individual’s ability to carry out regular activities independently.
On the other hand, Alzheimer’s is one of the most common types of dementia. Unlike dementia, Alzheimer’s is a disease that gets severe over time, affecting language, thought, and memory.
Alzheimer’s or dementia can develop when young, but the risks elevate as you age.
However, it might be pretty hard to differentiate between the two conditions because their symptoms can overlap. So continue reading to know the differences between the two and the diagnosis of dementia for proper prevention and treatment.
Dementia: Causes & Symptoms
According to the World Health Organization, over 55 million people globally are estimated to live with dementia. It’s not a disease but a syndrome with no definitive cause or diagnosis. Dementia impacts various mental functioning and cognitive tasks like reasoning and memory.
Interestingly, individuals can develop more than one kind of dementia – a condition known as mixed dementia. Doctors can confirm it only in autopsy. However, the most common Alzheimer’s accounts for about 70% of the cases.
Below are some factors that can stimulate the symptoms of dementia –
- Vitamin B12 deficiencies
- Consumption of some drugs
- High alcohol intake
- Liver, kidney, or thyroid problems
- Stress, depression, and anxiety.
Dementia usually develops when certain brain cells get damaged with age. Degenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s, are responsible for causing dementia. And each of these causes destroys a different set of brain cells.
Other causes may include vascular diseases, depression, stroke, and infections like HIV. However, there’s yet no clear evidence behind the exact causes of certain dementia.
Age is possibly the main risk factor. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that nearly 11.3% of individuals aged over 65 years have developed Alzheimer’s in the United States. And the percentage increases with age.
While early symptoms are mild, they are often easily overlooked. The symptoms begin with mild forgetfulness and, gradually, failure to keep track of time and lose the way in a familiar setting. It even becomes difficult to recall faces and names.
The common symptoms of dementia at early, progressive and advanced stages include –
- Can’t keep track of time
- Occasional forgetfulness
- Lose way in their familiar settings.
- More confusion
- Frequent forgetfulness
- Losing decision-making ability
- Repetitive questioning
- Poor hygiene.
- Can’t care for them
- Unable to track time
- Harder to recall names and faces
- Behavioral problems
- Aggression & depression.
In the later stages, dementia can significantly affect an individual’s capability to function independently. Eventually, it becomes a financial and emotional burden on caregivers and families.
Dementia is also one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and experts estimate the affected numbers to triple over the coming 30 years.
Alzheimer’s: Causes & Symptoms
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that gradually impairs cognitive function and memory. Researchers believe that unusual proteins create tangles and plaques surrounding the brain cells. This affects the individual’s communication abilities and further destroys the brain cells until they stop functioning.
Moreover, these buildups appear and affect particular brain areas like the hippocampus that controls memory. But the exact cause of this disease is unknown; hence, no cure.
Alzheimer’s individuals show specific symptoms due to the brain areas it affects. The symptoms begin with confusion and difficulty remembering. With time, you may even see signs like –
- Behavioral and mood changes
- Confuse place, events, and time
- Tendency to suspect people around them
- Difficulty in recalling, understanding, and using words
- Physical disabilities like walking and swallowing.
Alzheimer’s & Dementia Symptoms
Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms can often overlap. It includes –
- Memory deterioration
- Communication problems
- A decline in thinking ability.
Although some dementia forms share common symptoms, they have different symptoms that help make different diagnoses. For example, Lewy body dementia (LBD) shows some later symptoms like Alzheimer’s. But initial symptoms that help to diagnose it include sleep disturbances, visual hallucinations, and difficulty in balancing.
Alzheimer’s Vs. Dementia: Treatment
Dementia has no specific treatments, as the exact cause is unknown. But suppose a person develops symptoms due to drug use or vitamin deficiencies. In that case, the condition can be treated to prevent progress.
The options you have to prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms include the following –
- Medications for sleeping changes, depression, behavioral changes
- Memory loss treatment that consists of cholinesterase inhibitors donepezil, memantine, and rivastigmine
- Homely remedies that improve brain functioning and health. For example, fish or coconut oil.
However, in the case of dementia, treating the factors that lead to this syndrome can help to some degree. For example –
- Dementia conditions resulting from Alzheimer’s, LBD, and Parkinson’s are often treated with cholinesterase inhibitors.
- On the other hand, doctors treat vascular dementia with medications that prevent further damage to the brain’s blood vessels.
However, people with Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia require supportive services from caregivers and health aids. In addition, while the disease progresses, they might need a nursing home or assisted living facility.
If you have some Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms, it’s best to consult a doctor today. Prompt treatment can help significantly in managing and having a better understanding of the conditions.