To explain the difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia we first need to understand that Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia. The difference therein falls between whether or not it is Dementia or Senile Dementia of Alzheimer’s Type (SDAT).
Senile Dementia of Alzheimer’s Type
It is the most commonly recognized form and the most advanced. SDAT is incurable, degenerative and terminal. Alzheimer’s generally affects the elderly population age 65 and over, but there is a form of early onset AD that can begin in the teenage years or more commonly in the 30’s.
Progression of AD is as unique as each individual. The common symptoms are often mistaken as those of advancing age or stress related; memory loss and difficulty recalling facts and learned abilities, irritability, aggression and mood swings. As the condition advances these symptoms worsen and there is a breakdown of communication ability, long term memory loss and confusion. As bodily functions decline and are lost this leads to death.
There are indications that the disease is caused by plaque and tangles within the brain. But little is known about the progression and no cure or ways to slow the progression have been developed. There are treatments that offer relief of some of the symptoms.
Dementia is a group of symptoms collectively, rather than a disease. With this group of symptoms there is a decline in cognitive and intellectual function and there is a gradual loss of brain function. The onset of these symptoms can result strictly from the aging process or be a result of brain injury, brain disease, and hormone and vitamin imbalances or in relation to drug or alcohol abuse.
It is characterized by memory loss, confusion, and changes in personality, mood and behavior, difficulties with speech and understanding and an increasing dependence on others for activities of daily living. The diagnosis is only made when the loss of mental functions is so severe that it interferes with an individual’s daily living for a minimal period of 6 months.
Dementia symptoms are classified as either irreversible or reversible. This classification is dependent on the cause of the disease. If the dementia is the result of hormone or vitamin imbalance, correction of this should reverse the symptoms. Brain injury or the aging process cannot be reversed.
Distinguishing the Difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia
These two conditions are commonly confused. AD is a disease which causes a deterioration of the brain tissue. This leads to a decline in cognitive and social ability and abilities needed to function in our daily life. AD affects people age 65 and over. The cause of AD is not known, but it is considered by many scientists to be caused by genetic and biological factors. Dementia is a group of symptoms that cause memory loss and lead to other mental impairments which impede a person’s ability to perform their daily functions independently. It is usually caused either by the aging process or by an identifiable, sometimes reversible condition.