Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Are dementia and Alzheimer’s disease the same thing?

What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

You might think that Alzheimer's and dementia are simply different words for the same condition, but they aren't. Discover the key differences between Alzheimer's and dementia and find out why the two terms cause so much confusion

In a nutshell

Alzheimer's is a disease, dementia is not actually a disease but a collection of symptoms that occur when the brain cells stop working properly. You might also hear it described as a condition.

Three facts worth knowing

1. Dementia is the umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms that people with various brain disorders might have with their memory, language and thinking. Alzheimer's disease is the best known of these brain disorders and the most common cause of dementia.
2. Around 850,000 people in the UK have dementia. Alzheimer's disease affects almost 500,000 of them.
3. There are around 200 types of dementia so being told you have dementia does not automatically mean you have Alzheimer's. For example, you may have another form of dementia such as vascular dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies. Or you may have a mixture of several forms of dementia.

“What’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?”

We hear that all the time here at the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. It’s a common question, and doctors can sometimes contribute to the confusion. It may be that physicians prefer to use the word “dementia” because the term Alzheimer’s can sound more overwhelming and frightening. But, the terms Alzheimer’s disease and dementia may mean two very different things.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines dementia as:
“… [A] word for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. It is not a specific disease. People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do normal activities, such as getting dressed or eating (Alzheimer’s Symptoms). They may lose their ability to solve problems or control their emotions. Their personalities may change. They may become agitated or see things that are not there.”

Learn about Early-Onset Dementia

Though Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, many different diseases can cause dementia. Drugs are available to treat some of these diseases.

Other Forms of Dementia:

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  • Frontotemporal Dementia
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
  • credit/source:
  • Types of Dementia

    Dementia is a general term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is caused by physical changes in the brain.

    Alzheimer's disease

    Most common type of dementia; accounts for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of cases.
    Symptoms: Difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or events is often an early clinical symptom; apathy and depression are also often early symptoms. Later symptoms include impaired communication, poor judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
    Revised guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer’s were published in 2011 recommending that Alzheimer’s be considered a slowly progressive brain disease that begins well before symptoms emerge.
    Brain changes: Hallmark abnormalities are deposits of the protein fragment beta-amyloid (plaques) and twisted strands of the protein tau (tangles) as well as evidence of nerve cell damage and death in the brain.
    Learn more about Alzheimer's disease.

    Vascular dementiaback to top

    Previously known as multi-infarct or post-stroke dementia, vascular dementia is less common as a sole cause of dementia than Alzheimer’s, accounting for about 10 percent of dementia cases.
    Symptoms: Impaired judgment or ability to make decisions, plan or organize is more likely to be the initial symptom, as opposed to the memory loss often associated with the initial symptoms of Alzheimer's. Occurs from blood vessel blockage or damage leading to infarcts (strokes) or bleeding in the brain. The location, number and size of the brain injury determines how the individual's thinking and physical functioning are affected.
    Brain changes: Brain imaging can often detect blood vessel problems implicated in vascular dementia. In the past, evidence for vascular dementia was used to exclude a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (and vice versa). That practice is no longer considered consistent with pathologic evidence, which shows that the brain changes of several types of dementia can be present simultaneously. When any two or more types of dementia are present at the same time, the individual is considered to have mixed dementia.
    Learn more about vascular dementia.

    Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)back to top

    Symptoms: People with dementia with Lewy bodies often have memory loss and thinking problems common in Alzheimer's, but are more likely than people with Alzheimer's to have initial or early symptoms such as sleep disturbances, well-formed visual hallucinations, and slowness, gait imbalance or other parkinsonian movement features.
    Brain changes: Lewy bodies are abnormal aggregations (or clumps) of the protein alpha-synuclein. When they develop in a part of the brain called the cortex, dementia can result. Alpha-synuclein also aggregates in the brains of people with Parkinson's disease, but the aggregates may appear in a pattern that is different from dementia with Lewy bodies.
    The brain changes of dementia with Lewy bodies alone can cause dementia, or they can be present at the same time as the brain changes of Alzheimer's disease and/or vascular dementia, with each abnormality contributing to the development of dementia. When this happens, the individual is said to have mixed dementia.
    Learn more about dementia with Lewy bodies.

    Mixed dementiaback to top

    In mixed dementia abnormalities linked to more than one cause of dementia occur simultaneously in the brain. Recent studies suggest that mixed dementia is more common than previously thought.
    Brain changes: Characterized by the hallmark abnormalities of more than one cause of dementia —most commonly, Alzheimer's and vascular dementia, but also other types, such as dementia with Lewy bodies.
    Learn more about mixed dementia.

    Parkinson's diseaseback to top

    As Parkinson's disease progresses, it often results in a progressive dementia similar to dementia with Lewy bodies or Alzheimer's.
    Symptoms: Problems with movement are common symptoms of the disease. If dementia develops, symptoms are often similar to dementia with Lewy bodies.
    Brain changes: Alpha-synuclein clumps are likely to begin in an area deep in the brain called the substantia nigra. These clumps are thought to cause degeneration of the nerve cells that produce dopamine.
    Learn more about Parkinson's disease.

    Frontotemporal dementiaback to top

    Includes dementias such as behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD), primary progressive aphasia, Pick's disease, corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy.
    Symptoms: Typical symptoms include changes in personality and behavior and difficulty with language. Nerve cells in the front and side regions of the brain are especially affected.
    Brain changes: No distinguishing microscopic abnormality is linked to all cases. People with FTD generally develop symptoms at a younger age (at about age 60) and survive for fewer years than those with Alzheimer's.
    Learn more about frontotemporal dementia.

    Creutzfeldt-Jakob diseaseback to top

    CJD is the most common human form of a group of rare, fatal brain disorders affecting people and certain other mammals. Variant CJD (“mad cow disease”) occurs in cattle, and has been transmitted to people under certain circumstances.
    Symptoms: Rapidly fatal disorder that impairs memory and coordination and causes behavior changes.
    Brain changes: Results from misfolded prion protein that causes a "domino effect" in which prion protein throughout the brain misfolds and thus malfunctions.
    Learn more about Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

    Normal pressure hydrocephalusback to top

    Symptoms: Symptoms include difficulty walking, memory loss and inability to control urination.
    Brain changes: Caused by the buildup of fluid in the brain. Can sometimes be corrected with surgical installation of a shunt in the brain to drain excess fluid.
    Learn more about normal pressure hydrocephalus.

    Huntington's Diseaseback to top

    Huntington’s disease is a progressive brain disorder caused by a single defective gene on chromosome 4.
    Symptoms: Include abnormal involuntary movements, a severe decline in thinking and reasoning skills, and irritability, depression and other mood changes.
    Brain changes: The gene defect causes abnormalities in a brain protein that, over time, lead to worsening symptoms.
    Learn more about Huntington’s disease.

    Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndromeback to top

    Korsakoff syndrome is a chronic memory disorder caused by severe deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B-1). The most common cause is alcohol misuse.
    Symptoms: Memory problems may be strikingly severe while other thinking and social skills seem relatively unaffected.
    Brain changes: Thiamine helps brain cells produce energy from sugar. When thiamine levels fall too low, brain cells cannot generate enough energy to function properly.
    Learn more about Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
  • credit/source:
  • What Is Dementia?

    Dementia is not a disease, but a group of symptoms that are associated with a decline in thinking, reasoning, and/or remembering. If someone has dementia, they may have difficulty carrying out daily tasks they have performed routinely and independently throughout their lives.
    The two most common types of dementia are:
    • Alzheimer's disease
    • Vascular dementia, which is the hardening of the arteries in the brain that causes blockage in blood flow.
    These two conditions account for the vast majority of dementia cases. Both conditions are irreversible, although sometimes their symptoms can be managed.

    What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

    Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and this terminal, progressive brain disorder has no known cause or cure. It slowly steals the minds of its victims, leading to memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, personality changes, disorientation and the inability to communicate. Dementia usually occurs in the mid to later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
    To find out what is causing dementia symptoms, you need to undergo a thorough check-up with your doctor in order to determine what exactly is causing these symptoms. The check up may include:
    • blood tests
    • mental health evaluations
    • brain scans (only in some cases)
    Doctors often can accurately diagnose the dementia symptoms in 90 percent of cases. If you know someone who appears to be losing mental abilities to a degree that interferes with daily activities and social interactions, consult a doctor right away. There are some medications and treatments that may help manage some of the symptoms, so it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.
  • credit/source:

Treating dementia vs. treating Alzheimer’s

Treatment for dementia will depend on the exact cause and type of dementia, but many treatments for dementia and Alzheimer’s will overlap.

Alzheimer’s treatment

No cure for Alzheimer’s is available, but options to help manage symptoms of the disease include:
  • medications for behavioral changes, such as antipsychotics
  • medications for memory loss, which include cholinesterase inhibitors donepezil (Aricept) and rivastigmine (Exelon) and memantine (Namenda)
  • alternative remedies that aim to boost brain function or overall health, such as coconut oil or fish oil
  • medications for sleep changes
  • medications for depression

Dementia treatment

In some cases, treating the condition that causes dementia may help. Conditions most likely to respond to treatment include dementia due to:
In most cases, dementia isn’t reversible. However, many forms are treatable. The right medication can help manage dementia. Treatments for dementia will depend on the cause.
For example, doctors often treat dementia caused by Parkinson’s disease and LBD with cholinesterase inhibitors that they also often use to treat Alzheimer’s.
Treatment for vascular dementia will focus on preventing further damage to the brain’s blood vessels and preventing stroke.
People with dementia can also benefit from supportive services from home health aides and other caregivers. An assisted living facility or nursing home may be necessary as the disease progresses.

Outlook for people with dementia vs. people with Alzheimer’s

The outlook for people with dementia depends entirely on the direct cause of the dementia. Treatments are available to make symptoms of dementia due to Parkinson’s manageable, but there isn’t currently a way to stop or even slow down the related dementia. Vascular dementia can be slowed down in some cases, but it still shortens a person’s lifespan. Some types of dementia are reversible, but most types are irreversible and will instead cause more impairment over time.
Alzheimer’s is a terminal illness, and no cure is currently available. The length of time each of the three stages lasts varies. The average person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s has an estimated lifespan of approximately four to eight years after diagnosis, but some people can live with Alzheimer’s for up to 20 years.
Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned that you have the symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Starting treatment promptly can help you manage your symptoms.
Article Resources

How Are They Different?

When a person is diagnosed with dementia, they are being diagnosed with a set of symptoms. This is similar to someone who has a sore throat. Their throat is sore but it is not known what is causing that particular symptom. It could be allergies, strep throat, or a common cold. Similarly, when someone has dementia they are experiencing symptoms without being told what is causing those symptoms.
Another major difference between the two is that Alzheimer’s is not a reversible disease. It is degenerative and incurable at this time. Some forms of dementia, such as a drug interaction or a vitamin deficiency, are actually reversible or temporary.
Once a cause of dementia is found appropriate treatment and counseling can begin. Until a proper diagnosis is made, the best approach to any dementia is engagement, communication and loving care.
Note: Please check all the sources' links for complete information and details.