Many people use the terms “Alzheimer’s disease” and “dementia” interchangeably, but the two have different meanings, and it can be very important to know the difference.
Dementia is a general term for memory loss that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. The signs of dementia may include forgetfulness; difficulty making plans, thinking ahead, or using language; and a change in character traits, among other symptoms.
Alzheimer’s disease is a partially hereditary disease that causes a loss of brain cells. The symptoms start out mild, but grow progressively worse over time. An early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty learning new information. The disease can then progress to more severe symptoms such as forgetting names and places, disorientation, and mood and behavior changes. Eventually, it can lead to the inability to talk, walk, or eat.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, but there are many other causes of dementia, including vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
It’s important to know what type of dementia a person has, because the treatments are different. Some causes of dementia are treatable, and the person’s memory problems can be alleviated with proper medical care. With Alzheimer’s disease, there is no cure, but there are medications that can treat the symptoms and slow the disease’s progress.
Dementia is not a normal part of aging. If someone you love is exhibiting signs of dementia, he or she should get immediate medical attention to understand the underlying cause.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease from the Alzheimer’s Association, go to: www.alz.org.