What is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease?
February 6, 2015
Understanding the differences between Alzheimer's and dementia can be confusing. The terms and definitions of these conditions are frequently thought to be interchangeable as patients, families and caregivers come to believe that one simply means the other. Doctors and other healthcare professionals have even been known to contribute to this confusion as they tend to prefer using the word "dementia" when "Alzheimer's Disease" (AD) is the appropriate diagnosis. "Dementia" simply sounds less frightening.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), "Dementia is a brain disorder that affects communication and performance of daily activities and Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language.
In other words, Alzheimer's is a specific brain disease. It progressively destroys brain cells causing serious issues with memory, thinking and behavior. Alzheimer's disease is particularly common in aging people and is the most common cause of dementia.
On the other hand, when an individual has dementia they are dealing with a set of unhealthy symptoms that affect the brain. It is often difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing dementia beyond old age and frailty. This is similar to a headache. There is an obvious "ache" yet it is not instantly understood what is causing it.
Examining dementia and Alzheimer's disease separately can help breakdown the differences.
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