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

Anne is confused and wants to know the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Alzheimer’s or dementia?

Anne wants to know the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia.

•••

Q. Anne
You often write about Alzheimer’s and dementia, and many times I’ve thought that one cure or treatment for one would just fix both, but I was chatting about this with my friend the other day and I was told that’s not the case. When I asked why, he couldn’t tell me. Can you tell me the difference?

A. You’re not the first person to be confused by these two terms. If I’m being honest, I was also confused about them prior to writing about both so many times over the past years. I thought they were the same thing.

The words dementia and Alzheimer’s have been around for over 100 years, so we’re probably not the only two people in the world who’ve been unsure of the difference.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It accounts for around 60 to 80 per cent of dementia cases. Vascular dementia is the second most common form and is caused by high blood pressure. Behind these two forms comes alcohol-related dementia, Parkinson’s dementia and frontotemporal dementia.

There are other medical conditions that resemble dementia and can cause serious memory problems down the line.

While all of these are different forms of dementia, the correct diagnosis means getting the right treatment, including therapies, medicines and other cognition enhancing drugs.

You may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial for Alzheimer’s, which could halt the progression of the disease and give you more years of quality life.

Put in simple terms, dementia is a non-reversible decline in mental function.

It’s an overarching term used to describe cognitive impairment, such as chronic memory loss, impaired reasoning, Alzheimer’s, or any memory disorder chronic enough to severely interfere with your daily life.

Alzheimer's is a specific disease that irreversibly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually leads to the total inability to carry out the simplest tasks.

While no cure has been found for Alzheimer’s, scientists believe they have identified biological evidence of the disease: amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain.

If you begin to feel consistently disoriented, disorganised, experience language impairment and memory loss, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis. If you have two or three of these conditions, you may have dementia.

Your doctor or neurologist will most likely administer several mental-skill challenges to calculate the extent of your dementia.

There is no definitive test for Alzheimer’s. Diagnosis is mostly made after observation and negating all other possibilities.

In other words, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is a guessing game, but one which has an 85 to 90 per cent accuracy rate.

There is, however, a new PET scan that can diagnose with 95 per cent accuracy, but it’s usually only recommended to identify Alzheimer’s when symptoms aren’t otherwise obvious.

Read more at www.aarp.org

Have you ever worried about any of the symptoms of dementia? Were you aware of the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

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    COMMENTS

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    shirboy
    10th Aug 2018
    2:10pm
    What about Lewy Body dementia ??????
    moke
    10th Aug 2018
    4:44pm
    After attending a Seminar on the Aged I was informed that Alzheimers is only one form of dementia and there are many different ones e.g. Parkinson related, Dependent related, Depression related and Alcohol related and this is only a few that we were advised of.
    OnlyDaughter
    10th Aug 2018
    5:12pm
    No wonder ordinary people have problems differentiating between the generic term Dementia and one of its specific diseases when doctors do exactly the same thing, and from our family's unfortunate experience they change diagnoses from visit to visit. Our Mum has dementia of some type or other. Original diagnosis was vascular dementia made by a well-credentialed, highly respected geriatrician but Mum wouldn't accept this diagnosis, carried on alarmingly, and so her GP sent us off on what has ended up as a merry-go-round of doctors and diagnoses. She was ok on the medication prescribed by this doctor but other doctors have changed everything. Mum's MRI clearly shows chronic ischaemic brain disease (likely vascular dementia) and global brain shrinkage but the new idiot doctors won't look at that. Mum sees this female geriatric psychiatrist who has gone from diagnosis of Bi-Polar, to "don't know", back to vascular dementia, then she denied Mum had vascular dementia at next visit, then onto cognitive impairment with mental illness (paranoia with delusions), and at the latest visit, nothing wrong with our Mum and wanting to restate capacity to our family's absolute horror - but keeping her on doses of an anti-psychotic drug that is known world-wide to adversely affect old people. My Mum is 93, is physically brilliant, but is totally and utterly incapable of making any reasoned, sensible decisions or recalling any basic decisions that she may have made. Left to her own devices, our Mum would be bankrupt and homeless within a short period of time. Mum does some dreadful things if she can get away with it, she then denies them and her behaviour is absolutely appalling at times. Everything is emotion based, at the moment thoughts. So, instead of getting correct treatment that actually helps her, my Mum gets no meaningful help and our Mum is going backwards. I have told my brothers that our family has to sack this idiot woman psychiatrist but finding a doctor that knows what they are doing, who will listen to us - her family, and will provide helpful medication is not going to be easy. No one told me how, in my old age, I would be confronted by these issues. It is vitally important that those suffering from dementia do have a correct diagnosis and are prescribed the appropriate medication for their own welfare, and that of their carers.
    trickyv
    10th Aug 2018
    5:27pm
    only daughter, my sympathy is sent to you, luckily we have a wonder geriatrician in our area who quickly diagnosed my mum with Alzheimers as I have struggled with her for years but she has been supported through Anglican Care and goes to a dementia day out twice a week, they also have a monthly support meeting/morning tea and it has been a god send to me, first time I went i was ready to who knows what with mum and when I came home I thought my mum is a breeze compared to what other people were going through. Dementia is the umbrella name and then you have many forms of dementia and Alzheimers is just one of them, keeping looking for a good geriatrcian as they are out there and as frustrating as it is we just have to keep doing the great care for our loved ones


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