What is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease?
Dementia is a term that describes a group of symptoms without a specific cause that can affect various mental functions. Several conditions are associated with dementia, and Alzheimer's disease is the most common condition, accounting for approximately 70% of cases. However, there are other types and causes of dementia apart from Alzheimer's disease, such as:
- Vascular dementia, which by conditions that restrict blood flow to the brain, such as stroke
- Lewy body dementia, which is caused by the buildup of abnormal protein deposits in the brain
- Frontotemporal disorders, which result from damage to the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain
- Huntington's disease
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy due to repeated traumatic brain injury
Certain factors and conditions can cause symptoms that are similar to those of dementia. These factors and conditions include:
- Vitamin B12 and D deficiencies
- High alcohol consumption
- Traumatic head injury
- Thyroid, kidney, or liver problems
- Depression, anxiety, or stress
It is possible to have multiple types of dementia; when this occurs, it is referred to as mixed dementia.
Causes and Risk Factors
The causes of dementia depend on the type, but for many types of dementia, the exact causes are still unclear. Although dementia is not an inevitable part of aging, age is one of the main risk factors. In fact, up to 50% of individuals aged 85 years and older may have a type of dementia.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, around 11.3% of people aged over 65 years have Alzheimer's disease in the United States, and this number rises to 34.6% in those aged 85 years and older. Symptoms of dementia tend to worsen with age. While it is possible to develop dementia at a younger age, the condition is more common among older adults.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of dementia can vary in severity and type depending on which area of the brain is affected. Common symptoms include:
- Anxiety and distress
- Sleep disturbances
- Detachment and disinterest
- Repeating the same questions
- Low mood
- Walking around without any reason
These symptoms can take time to occur, and significant damage may be present before a person visits a healthcare professional. This may make treatment more challenging.
What is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's disease is caused by a buildup of abnormal proteins that create plaques and tangles in the brain, leading to symptoms. These proteins surround brain cells and interfere with their communication, eventually damaging them to the point where they can no longer function. The hippocampus, which is responsible for long-term memory recall, is one of the specific areas of the brain where these buildups occur.
Signs and Symptoms
Alzheimer's disease affects specific areas of the brain, which leads to a distinct set of symptoms. In the early stages, individuals may experience confusion and difficulty remembering things.
As the disease progresses, they may also suffer from:
- Changes in mood and behavior
- Confusion about times places and events
- Unfounded suspicions about people
- Difficulty using and understanding words
- Physical problems like difficulty swallowing and walking
Dementia and Alzheimer's disease treatment
Dementia is a condition that currently has no cure, and existing treatments cannot reverse the damage caused by it. However, if symptoms arise due to vitamin deficiencies or drug use, there may be options to prevent the condition from worsening. The treatment options for dementia depend on the type of dementia. For instance, treatments for Alzheimer's disease aim to relieve symptoms and may involve various approaches:
- Taking medications
- Ensuring personal comfort and safety
- Getting exposure to sunlight
- Regular exercise can help manage daily life
Some drugs are designed to alleviate the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, while others can assist in managing related issues, such as sleep problems, anxiety, or other symptoms. To find suitable treatments at each stage, it is necessary for the patient and their caregiver to collaborate with a healthcare professional.
In addition to medication, lifestyle strategies such as regular exercise and a varied diet can contribute to overall health. They may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
Dementia is a condition that affects a person's cognitive abilities, such as memory, reasoning, and mood. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, but there are several other types and causes. The treatment for dementia depends on its cause and may involve medications and lifestyle changes. Caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's disease can be challenging, but you can find helpful tips on how to do so here.