What is the difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease?

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often used interchangeably even though they mean different things. Put simply, dementia is a broad term we use to describe a collection of symptoms associated with the decline of neurological function. Dementia can be present in a patient for many reasons, although Alzheimer’s disease accounts for roughly 75% of known dementia cases.

Other types of dementia include vascular, Lewy Body, Frontotemporal, and mixed. There are also ‘reversible dementias’ which can be remediated when the root cause is addressed such as severe urinary tract infection, vitamin deficiency, sleep deprivation, and severe depression.

Different forms of dementia have different early symptoms. But there are common early signs across many types. These include:

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Decreased concentration
  • Disorientation
  • Mood changes
  • Judgement lapses

And while some forms of dementia share similar symptoms, others can be identified by their unique effects on patients. For example, someone with Lewy Body dementia might experience visual hallucinations, stiffness and slowness of movement, tremors, night terrors, or may even be observed acting out their dreams. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the first things to be affected in patients is their short-term memory. In brain scans of patients with Alzheimer’s disease a deterioration of the brain’s regions associated with short-term memory functions can be observed. While Alzheimer’s disease is much more commonly diagnosed than Lewy body dementia, it is important to understand that both are only types of dementia.

There is no test to definitively confirm the presence of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, while the person is alive.  However once symptoms begin to appear, physicians can examine the person to determine potential causes. If a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s disease is present, early identification allows for the best possible intervention and treatment. This allows you to better structure your relationship, complete future planning with the input of the diagnosed person and try pharmacological remedies.

NursePartners prides itself on our commitment to clients, and their families, who are living with dementia. Are you living in the Philadelphia metro and are looking for support? Give our team a call at 610-323-9800.

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