Alzheimer’s and dementia are two crippling mental health conditions no one wants to see a loved one go through. Both have unique symptoms, and also cause similar problems. The words are sometimes used interchangeably, and though dementia and Alzheimer’s have a causal relationship, they are definitely two separate issues.
Dementia Is a Blanket Term
Dementia is a syndrome, not a disease. Alzheimer’s disease is only one of many diseases that can cause dementia symptoms. Dementia is used by mental health professionals as an overall term which can describe several conditions and their symptoms.
When some brain-based problem causes memory issues, interferes the with the way someone performs simple daily activities, or negatively impacts communication skills, dementia can be used to describe those conditions. Dementia can refer to several different diseases which attack the brain and any related impaired neurological processes.
Alzheimer’s Is a Form of Dementia
In first-world nations, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. This disease unfortunately gets worse over time, and can be treated with medication and alternative techniques, but to date, there has been no cure discovered for Alzheimer’s disease. One of the early indicators of Alzheimer’s is a problem recalling things, such as where a person has left their car keys or whether or not they have eaten a meal.
Alzheimer’s tends to get worse over time. At first, memory slipups seem innocent enough. We all get so busy in our daily routines that we forget things from time to time. With Alzheimer’s the memory continues to get worse, until long-term memory is affected, as well as short-term.
Alzheimer’s negatively impacts the brain’s ability to process and speak language, communicate properly, and recall old thoughts as well as develop new thought patterns.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s are also common to other forms of dementia, and while younger people can definitely develop Alzheimer’s, this and other cases of dementia are usually found in older adults. As you age, especially past the age of 60 or 70, your risk for developing dementia in general, and Alzheimer’s specifically, increases dramatically.
Dementia Is Not a “Normal” Aging Process
Along with Alzheimer’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and vascular dementia are other forms of dementia. A person may develop dementia symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease or Pick’s disease. Diagnosing which particular type of dementia in each case is extremely important for proper treatment. Sometimes several indicators of dementia are present, and this condition is known as mixed dementia.
As many as 50 million people around the world suffer from some type of dementia, with 30 to 35 million of those dementia sufferers diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Sadly, mental health experts believe that as many as 3 in 4 people who have Alzheimer’s have not been diagnosed. This is due to a number of factors.
People who see their memory and communication skills slipping are often fearful of reporting the problem. Additionally, a lot of people chalk up a fading memory to an expected aspect of the aging process. This is a concerning condition, because the earlier Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia can be diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome for the patient.