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Is Dementia Similar To Alzheimer’s Disease?

posted on 9/14/2016 Facebook Facebook

Many of us have often heard the terms Alzheimer’s disease and dementia used interchangeably as many people believe that one means the other. In fact, this great mix up often leads to a lot of confusion not just amongst patients but also families and caregivers. Dementia and Alzheimer’s share many symptoms amongst themselves, however, they sure are not different names for the same condition. 

What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term for a set of symptoms that includes severe memory loss and impaired thinking and memory. It is a term that is often associated with the cognitive decline of aging. More often or so, dementia is also referred as ''senility'' and is mostly regarded to strike the elderly. It is most important to note that, Alzheimer’s disease is a specific illness that is the most common cause of dementia.

Other causes of dementia include Parkinson’s, Huntington’s diseases and several other mental illnesses, though Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80 % of such diagnoses which might be the real reason behind the mix up between the terms. It might so happen that a patient has more than one type of dementia which can result from damage to different parts of the brain. 

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s can be described as a specific form of dementia which is caused when high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells make it hard for brain cells to stay healthy and to communicate with each other. This leads to the loss of connections between nerve cells, and eventually to the death of nerve cells and loss of brain tissue.

With an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, dementia often gets progressively worse impairing the patients to carry out their daily activities, communicate with their environment and even talk or swallow. 

So, what’s really different between both these conditions?
A dementia diagnosis is based on the visible symptoms without actually knowing where it is coming from. On the other hand, in Alzheimer’s disease, the exact cause of the symptoms is known. Alzheimer’s is degenerative and irreversible, while some forms of dementia can be reversed if therapy starts in time after a proper diagnosis. 

The genetic nature of Alzheimer’s disease is also rapidly coming to light in the wake of the increasing research being carried out to study this disease. Several genes have been known to play a profound role in determining the risk of developing Alzheimer’s especially if the individual has a history of the same disease in the family. Genetic testing can help you find if you have the specific genes which make you prone to Alzheimer’s allowing you to take the necessary precautions in time to prevent a future diagnosis. 

References:
1.Scott KR, Barrett AM. Dementia syndromes: evaluation and treatment. Expert Rev Neurother. 2007 Apr;7(4):407-22. Review. PubMed PMID: 17425495; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2536654.
2.Karantzoulis S, Galvin JE. Distinguishing Alzheimer''s disease from other major forms of dementia. Expert Rev Neurother. 2011 Nov;11(11):1579-91. doi:10.1586/ern.11.155. Review. PubMed PMID: 22014137; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3225285.

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