A lot of people make the mistake of using Alzheimer’s disease and dementia interchangeably in front of those who do not know the difference. In fact, those who are unable to distinguish these two terms can cause family members, the patient and even the patient’s in-home caregiver to feel uneasy because of the irreversible effects of Alzheimer’s.
Unlike Alzheimer’s, dementia is not a “disease.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s website, Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that creates issues with behavior, thinking and memory. Dementia itself is the “umbrella term” that describes diseases that impair a person’s mental ability enough that it interferes with his or her daily life. While the Alzheimer’s Association also reports that the disease is the cause of 60-80% of dementia cases, other diseases that can cause dementia include Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Also, those who have had a stroke, have vitamin deficiencies or thyroid issues can have signs of dementia.
Alzheimer’s is not reversible, but other forms of dementia are.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. But, many other causes of dementia can be cured by ensuring that the individual receives the proper diagnosis and treatment. What’s more, like Alzheimer’s, many forms of dementia are progressive. In other words, symptoms show up gradually and get worse over time. So, as soon as they appear, seeing a doctor to receive a proper diagnosis is a priority.
How can a doctor tell whether it is Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia?
In general, those who suffer from dementia have cell damage in certain areas of their brain. Doctors have found that those with Alzheimer’s have high levels of certain proteins outside and inside their brain cells. Doctors also make their diagnosis for Alzheimer’s based on the patient’s medical history, lab tests and how the person acts day-to-day. Also, sometimes symptoms overlap, and seeing a gero-psychologist or neurologist is necessary to determine the actual cause.
In the end, the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s is that one is a cause, and one is a general term to describe what someone is suffering from when they have a severe decline in mental ability. Although using these two terms interchangeably is not a huge mistake, those who are ill-informed may become confused or believe that a loved one is beyond help when they may not be.