The human brain is a supercomputer in its own right. How it manages to work tirelessly through the daily grind of human life passing innumerable difficult situations and helping us in completing both routine and difficult tasks for years still remains a mystery to many. However, like all machines and products the human brain does have an expiry date. Sometimes, certain conditions affect the routine functioning of the brain thus making it impossible to perform its basic functions. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are two such conditions which commonly affect the brain functioning in older people.
Differences between Dementia and Alzheimer’s:
- The term dementia refers to a set of symptoms which affects the human brain that makes communication and performing routine activities difficult for the patient. Alzheimer’s is often considered as a specific type of dementia and it is a progressive disease of the brain. The condition affects a particular part of the brain that manages the thought process, memory and the language. The condition results in slurred speech and confused thoughts.
- Dementia is often a broad term which is used to denote a wide range of symptoms such as problems with memory, thinking and performing simple daily tasks that sets in with ageing. As the condition progresses it affects the independent functioning of the individual severely. Dementia is caused by many other conditions such as Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. HIV infections, vascular diseases and stroke are some other conditions which might cause dementia. Alzheimer’s is a major cause of dementia with the condition causing dementia in over 50-70-% of the people. There has been no known cause for Alzheimer’s.
- Generally, dementia is a syndrome that can be caused by numerous causes and it is often difficult to pin down a cause for the symptoms experienced by the patient. However, it is different in the case of Alzheimer’s as the symptoms can be easily related to the disease.
- Alzheimer’s is not a reversible disease. It is a degenerative disease which becomes worse with age. It commonly affects people who are over 60 years of age and it is estimated that over five million people in United States have the condition. However, certain types of dementia caused by vitamin deficiency and drug related causes can be cured and the symptoms can be reversed.
- The symptoms of dementia can be mild and becomes more prominent as the condition progresses. What starts as isolated episodes of forgetfulness transforms into a patient losing their way, repetitive questioning and into a stage where they become unable to take care of their personal hygiene too. Dementia can be diagnosed by blood tests, brain scans and neuropsychological testing. The signs of Alzheimer’s start from the brain of the patient before any symptoms are exhibited. Shrinkage and significant protein deposits as plaque in the brain are common for people with Alzheimer’s. There is no accurate diagnosis for Alzheimer’s when a person is alive. An accurate diagnosis is possible only on performing an autopsy and analyzing the brain under a microscope.
- Some forms of dementia respond well to treatment. The treatment should aim at treating the conditions that cause dementia. There is no concrete cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Both Alzheimer’s and dementia are conditions that affect the brain. Though the terms are commonly used interchangeably there are certain differences between these diseases which needs to be clearly understood by the patient’s caregivers and family. Whatever the condition it is imperative that it is identified immediately and the appropriate measures are taken to manage the situation. Creating a better public awareness about the diseases would greatly help in creating better treatment plans for the people affected.