Dementia Versus Alzheimer: How They Differ?

Dementia versus Alzheimer – Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can share many of the same symptoms, but the two names don’t mean the same condition. Here’s what you need to know about these conditions to avoid this common mistake.

Dementia is a syndrome, or a group of symptoms that occur together consistently. It is not a specific disease. The term “dementia” is used to describe a set of symptoms that can include memory loss, difficulty thinking, problem solving, or problems with language. It is caused by damage to brain cells, and because Alzheimer’s disease ‘destroys’ the brain, it is one of the most common causes of dementia.

As much as 50 to 70% of all dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s disease. However, other conditions can also be the cause, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob and Parkinson’s disease. In addition, dementia is often erroneously referred to as “senility” or “senile dementia,” which reflects the previously widespread but incorrect belief that severe mental decline is a normal part of aging.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, symptoms of dementia vary widely and can include factors such as problems with memory, communication and language, loss of ability to focus and pay attention, difficulties with reasoning and judgment, and problems with visual perception. However, different types of dementia are associated with different types of brain damage.

Furthermore, an estimated 10% of people with dementia have more than one type of dementia at the same time, the most common being the combination of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia caused when high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells make it difficult 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 their death and loss of brain tissue.

Some symptoms are: memory loss, difficulty planning, problem solving, completing household, leisure or work tasks, temporal or location confusion, difficulty understanding images, difficulty with words in speaking and writing, putting things in different places, reduced judgment/decision-making ability, personality and mood change.

Here’s the Dementia versus Alzheimer — when an individual is diagnosed with dementia, they are diagnosed based on their symptoms, without really knowing what’s behind the symptoms. In Alzheimer’s disease, the exact cause of symptoms is understood. Furthermore, Alzheimer’s disease does not yet appear to be reversible, whereas some types of dementia, such as those caused by nutritional problems or drug interactions, can be reversed.

Dementia versus Alzheimer
Dementia versus Alzheimer

Dementia versus Alzheimer

Similarities and differences: Alzheimer’s & types of dementia of other types have some things in common, but also differ from each other. However, mixed forms are also common, for example between Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Then the symptoms of the disease overlap. Read more about Dementia versus Alzheimer, the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia here!

Many people wonder what the difference is between dementia and Alzheimer’s – assuming that they are two different diseases. In fact, however, Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, just like, for example, vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. So the question should actually be how Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia differ from each other.

Difference between Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia

Dementia versus Alzheimer: Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia are the two most common forms of dementia. The most important differences between the two relate to the onset and course of the disease: Alzheimer’s dementia begins insidiously and the symptoms slowly increase. Vascular dementia, on the other hand, usually begins suddenly; the symptoms often increase in leaps and bounds, but sometimes also insidiously and slowly, as with Alzheimer’s.

Other differences:

• As far as gender distribution is concerned, there is no definite difference in Alzheimer’s. In contrast, vascular dementia is more common in men.

• Patients with vascular dementia often have a history of stroke, while Alzheimer’s patients usually do not.

• Paralysis and numbness are common in vascular dementia, while they are usually absent in Alzheimer’s dementia.

The two types of dementia often mix

As clear as the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia of the vascular form are in theory, the reality often looks different. Because many patients do not suffer from a pure form of one or the other form of dementia, but from a mixed form. Thus, vascular dementia rarely occurs without Alzheimer’s changes. As a result, the clinical pictures can overlap, which makes the diagnosis more difficult.

Difference between Alzheimer’s and Frontotemporal Dementia

There are both similarities and differences between Alzheimer’s dementia and frontotemporal dementia. Some examples:

• While Alzheimer’s usually occurs from the 7th decade of life, frontotemporal dementia often manifests earlier (in the 5th to 7th decade).

• On average, the course of frontotemporal dementia is somewhat faster than that of Alzheimer’s.

• Alzheimer’s rarely runs in families, while frontotemporal dementia is common (in about 50 percent of cases).

• The hallmark of Alzheimer’s is memory impairment. In frontotemporal dementia, on the other hand, it develops relatively rarely. Other symptoms are in the foreground here, such as “neglect” and a lack of personal hygiene. In Alzheimer’s, however, personality changes usually only become clearly recognizable at a late stage.

• Frontotemporal dementia is very often accompanied by reduced drive, euphoria/disinhibition and a lack of insight into the disease. Such symptoms are rare in Alzheimer’s.

• Disorders of facial recognition, speech and language, and incontinence usually appear late in Alzheimer’s disease, and early in frontotemporal dementia.

• In Alzheimer’s dementia, movements and actions are already disturbed in the early stages of the disease. Frontotemporal dementia is rarely associated with such apraxia.

• Alzheimer’s patients rarely show restlessness and only in later stages. People with frontotemporal dementia, on the other hand, are often restless even in the early stages.

Difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia with Lewy bodies

Alzheimer’s dementia and Lewy body dementia are also similar in many respects, which is why the latter was not considered an independent disease for a long time. It is now recognized as such, because there are also differences between Alzheimer’s and dementia with Lewy bodies. The most important are:

• The condition of Alzheimer’s patients deteriorates slowly and more or less steadily. The course of Lewy body dementia, on the other hand, is often fluctuating, especially when it comes to attention.

• Memory disorders show up early in Alzheimer’s, and often late in Lewy Body dementia.

• Visual hallucinations, which occur very frequently and early in Lewy body dementia, are rarely early symptoms in Alzheimer’s.

• Lewy body dementia is often accompanied early by symptoms of parkinsonism (particularly rigor). In Alzheimer’s, such symptoms appear, if at all, only in later stages. Other neurological symptoms are also rare here. People with Lewy body dementia, on the other hand, suffer from repeated loss of consciousness and sleep disorders (including with actual action of the dream contents).

• Hypersensitivity to neuroleptics (medicines against hallucinations, delusions, confusion, etc.) is another clear difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia with Lewy bodies: people with Lewy body dementia tolerate these drugs poorly or not at all, but Alzheimer’s patients do.

In practice, however, the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia of the Lewy body type is not always so clear. A variant of Alzheimer’s has now been discovered in which not only Alzheimer’s plaques but also Lewy bodies form in the brain. The symptoms can then overlap.

Dr. Ashwani Kumar is highly skilled and experienced in treating major and minor general medicine diseases.