Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease – What’s The Difference?
Is someone you love or someone you know suffers from memory issues?
Dementia is a group of symptoms, which are characterized by a decline in memory, thinking, language abilities, and difficulties with problem solving and social interactions. Dementia is not one specific disease but rather, an overall term covering a wide range of distinct medical illnesses including Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia typically involves an affectation of the individual’s cognitive skills in a manner that is severe enough to cause an impact in daily life activities.
While the most common symptom of dementia is memory loss, having memory problems is not sufficient to make a diagnosis of dementia. There has to be other cognitive changes and sometimes-psychological affectation.
There is also a prevailing wrong notion that dementia is a normal part of aging. It is not. The chances of having dementia however do increase with age. Many people also use the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s disease interchangeably but are they the same? No they are not.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and irreversible brain disorder, which involves a slow destruction of an individual’s cognitive skills such as memory and thinking, and with time, their ability to perform simple tasks. Alzheimer disease is a type of dementia and it accounts for about 60 to 80% cases of dementia. Simply put, dementia is an umbrella term, which Alzheimer disease falls under.
WHAT CAUSES DEMENTIA?
Dementia results from damage to the cells of the brain especially the regions involved in memory, thinking, and judgment, and this damage interferes with the normal ability of the brain cells to effectively communicate with each other.
There are different causes of dementia and they include:
- Vascular dementia; Arising from cerebrovascular disease like stroke.
- Injury; resulting from death of brain cells. Repetitive traumatic brain injury such as in boxers increases the risk of having dementia.
- Other causes include;
- HIV infection
- Prion disease e.g. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
- Chronic central nervous system infection
- Raised intracranial pressure such as in brain malignancies, hydrocephalus
- Autoimmune disease
TYPES OF DEMENTIA
This is by far the commonest type of dementia. It typically sets in in the mid-sixties for the late onset type. The rarer early-onset variety begins between the 30s and mid 60s.
The underlying cause is the development of plaques in the brain as a result of protein abnormalities and the loss of inter-neural connections in the brain.
The burden of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is heavy. The World Health Organization estimates that as much as 47.5 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a recent census, it is estimated that about 4.7 million persons aged 65 years or more in the US are living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Also according to the Alzheimer’s Association, the proportion increases to 1/3 for persons aged 85 years or more. Many of these individuals are being cared for by Home Health agencies that provide Home Care Services.
Lewy Body Dementia
This is a less common cause of dementia and is due to a neuro-degeneration of the brain.
A dementia of two different types occurring simultaneously. For example vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease manifesting in one individual.
This is also associated with movement disorders.
Also involving problems with movement.