Both Alzheimer’s and dementia are associated with a loss of memory, but there is a difference. Alzheimer’s refers to a physical change in the makeup of the brain, which causes dementia as one of its major symptoms. Dementia can be a symptom of other diseases as well.
Dementia is one of the major symptoms of and the final stage in the
progression of Alzheimer’s (an age-related disease that is
characterized by symptoms other than just memory loss, as well as by
a physical change in brain tissue). When a person suffers from the
symptom of dementia, it means that they are afflicted by memory loss
and an overall decline in their ability to process information. In
order to be diagnosed with dementia, a person must demonstrate
impaired abilities in two of the following areas: memory, ability to
focus, reasoning and judgment, visual perception, and communication.
Dementia is diagnosed when the symptoms get so bad they interfere
with a person’s ability to function on a daily basis. Forgetfulness
and memory loss is a normal part of aging, but dementia is defined
as severe instances of those.
Common causes for dementia can include vitamin deficiencies or
problems in other parts of the body, such as the thyroid. Some
medications can cause dementia as one of their side effects, and the
excessive use of alcohol can also lead to dementia. It generally
starts out mild and progresses slowly over years. In some cases it
can be treated and reversed.
Alzheimer’s can be one of the causes of dementia. It describes a
physical condition in which there is a change in the tissue of the
brain, including the formation of structures called amyloid plaques
and neurofibrillary tangles. They are blockages in the brain that
prevent the transmission of signals. The loss of signals between the
brain’s neurons results in dementia, among other symptoms.
In addition to dementia, those who suffer from Alzheimer’s often
show other signs of cognitive difficulty. This can include a loss of
depth and spatial perception, abnormal sleep patterns, and an
inability to visualize and understand abstract concepts, such as
numbers. There is often a change in personality, as well, and a
person can become angry, restless, or paranoid. Those afflicted with
the disease often have trouble following directions or fulfilling
requests, and may also lack the motivation to do so. This lack of
motivation can extend to all areas of life, from getting up in the
morning to interacting with other people.
Alzheimer’s also worsens over time, and three distinct stages have
been identified. The first is a stage where there are no symptoms,
but the disease it starting to develop in the brain. In the second,
symptoms begin to manifest themselves and the person suffers from
mild, but not complete cognitive impairment. In the third stage,
symptoms progress to full-blown dementia.
Currently, there are no cures or preventative methods for
Alzheimer’s, and those who are diagnosed with it will eventually
need around-the-clock, complete care. What triggers the development
of Alzheimer’s is unknown, although many doctors point to an
all-around healthy lifestyle as the best way to keep brain function
at healthy levels, regardless of age.
Bottom line, Alzheimer's and other diseases can cause dementia,
while dementia can be a symptom of Alzheimer's.