Many people use the words “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s disease” interchangeably. However, they are not the same thing. A person can have a form of dementia that is completely unrelated to Alzheimer’s disease.
The term Dementia does not refer to a specific disease, instead it describes a group of symptoms which affect memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning. It includes memory loss, personality change and impaired intellectual functions resulting from disease or trauma to the brain.
Dementia is progressive and can arise from many different causes which will all involve loss of memory, but they have other symptoms which are different depending on the cause.
There are over 100 different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease, being the most common form. Although it is more common in people over age 65, it is not a normal part of the ageing process as younger people are also affected by it.
While, memory loss generally occurs in dementia, memory loss alone doesn’t mean you have dementia. Unfortunately, there is a certain extent of memory loss that is a normal part of ageing.
The most common causes of dementia include:
• Neurological diseases, Alzheimer’s disease falls under this category.
• Disorders that affect the blood circulation in the brain such as:
A major stroke or severe concussion
• Infections of the Central Nervous System such as: Meningitis
• Long term alcohol or drug use
• Certain types of hydrocephalus, characterised by a build-up of fluid in the brain.
• There are also some reversible types of dementia such as those caused by drug interactions or vitamin deficiencies.
Alzheimer’s disease is a very specific form of dementia, with symptoms including impaired thought, impaired speech, and confusion.
On the other hand, Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disease, caused by a dysfunction in one or several areas of the nervous system. During the course of Alzheimer’s disease, proteins build up in the brain to form structures called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’, which lead to the loss of connections between nerve cells, and eventually to the death of the cells in the brain. There is also a shortage of important chemicals which help to transmit signals around the brain. When there is a shortage of this chemical, the signals are not transmitted as effectively.
When a person is diagnosed with dementia, they are being diagnosed with a set of symptoms. This is similar to someone having a fever. Their temperature is elevated but the cause is unknown. It could be allergies, sore throat, or the common cold. Similarly, when someone has dementia they are experiencing symptoms without being told what is causing those symptoms.
Another major difference between the two is that Alzheimer’s is not a reversible disease. It is degenerative and incurable at this time, while some forms of dementia, such as a drug interaction or a vitamin deficiency, are actually reversible or temporary.
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Ann Bird firstname.lastname@example.org
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