General Health

Difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most frequent cause of dementia and a neurodegenerative condition. Dementia is a syndrome or a cluster of symptoms that can be affected by a range of factors. Dementia is defined by issues with memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive processes that hinder a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks. Because nerve cells (neurons) in areas of the brain important for cognitive function have been injured or killed, these issues arise.

Neurons in other sections of the brain, including those that allow a person to walk and swallow, are eventually damaged or destroyed in Alzheimer’s disease. People who are in the latter stages of the disease are bedbound and require full-time care. Alzheimer’s disease is deadly in the end stages.

What is dementia?

When a person exhibits dementia symptoms, a clinician will conduct tests to identify the cause. Different causes of dementia are linked to various symptom patterns and brain abnormalities. Many persons with dementia symptoms have brain abnormalities associated with more than one cause of dementia, as per studies.

According to research, almost half of patients with Alzheimer’s dementia on autopsy also had the brain abnormalities of the second type of dementia, the most frequent one being vascular dementia. This is referred to as mixed dementia. Individuals with dementia-like symptoms may not have the gradual brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease or other degenerative brain disorders.

Depression, delirium, medication side effects, endocrine disorders, certain vitamin deficiencies, and excessive alcohol intake are all common causes of dementia-like symptoms. These illnesses, unlike Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders, can often be reversed with treatment.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease was first described in 1906, but it took additional 70 years for it to be acknowledged as a leading cause of dementia and death. Only then did Alzheimer’s disease become a major research topic. The later research revealed a lot, including the fact that Alzheimer’s disease starts years even before symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia emerge. Much remains to be understood about the precise physiological changes that cause Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, why the disease and its symptoms proceed more quickly in some people than for others, as well as how the disease can be prevented, slowed, or overturned.

The most well-known risk factor is getting older, and the majority of Alzheimer’s patients are 65 and older. If a person under the age of 65 develops Alzheimer’s disease, it is referred to as younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is another term for younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Younger people with Alzheimer’s disease can be in the early, medium, or late stages of the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disease in which dementia symptoms steadily increase over time. Memory loss is minimal in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but people with late-stage Alzheimer’s lose their capacity to converse and respond to their surroundings. A person with Alzheimer’s disease lives on average 4 to 8 years following diagnosis, although it can last up to 20 years depending on other circumstances.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there is a treatment. Aducanumab is the first medicine to show that eliminating amyloid, one of Alzheimer’s disease’s hallmarks, from the brain can prevent cognitive and functional deterioration in persons with early Alzheimer’s disease. Other treatments can help people with Alzheimer’s and their carers live better lives by temporarily slowing the progression of dementia symptoms and improving their quality of life. Today, there is a global effort underway to identify new ways to treat, delay, and prevent the disease from occurring.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia

Cognitive: Mental decline, difficulty thinking and understanding, confusion in the evenings, delusion, disorientation, forgetfulness, making things up, mental confusion, difficulty concentrating, inability to create new memories, inability to do simple maths or inability to recognise common objects are all symptoms of mental decline.

Behavioural: Aggression, agitation, problems with self-care, irritability, meaningless repetition of own words, personality changes, restlessness, lack of restraint, or roaming and getting lost are all signs of a problem with self-care.

Mood: Anger, indifference, general dissatisfaction, loneliness, or mood swings are all examples of negative emotions.

Psychological: Depression, delusion, or paranoia are all symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Other Symptoms: A loss of appetite, an inability to coordinate muscular motions or muddled speech.

Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia

Alzheimer’s dementia can’t be diagnosed with a single test. Instead, physicians (sometimes with the assistance of specialists such as neurologists and geriatricians) employ several methods and instruments to aid in the diagnosing process. The following are some of them:

  • Obtaining the individual’s medical and family history, as well as mental history and a history of cognitive and behavioural abnormalities.
  • Inquiring about changes in cognitive skills and behaviour with a family member. Performing cognitive testing as well as physical and neurologic exams.
  • Blood tests and brain imaging are used to rule out other possible causes of dementia symptoms, such as a tumour or vitamin shortages.
  • In rare cases, brain imaging can be used to determine whether a person has high levels of beta-amyloid, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease; normal levels would indicate that Alzheimer’s is not the cause of dementia.
  • Alzheimer’s dementia diagnosis necessitates a thorough medical examination. Although doctors can nearly always tell whether someone has dementia, pinpointing the exact reason can be challenging.
  • An individual may need several days or weeks to complete the appropriate tests and examinations, as well as time for the physician to assess the results and make a diagnosis.

Author

Yash Batra

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