About Alzheimer's & Dementia

What you need to know Alzheimer's disease vs. dementia

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What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?

“Dementia” is not a single disease. It refers to a general decline in mental abilities overall and could be caused by a number of different conditions or diseases. The term “dementia” describes a group of symptoms including loss of memory, judgment and reasoning as well as changes in mood, behaviour and communication abilities. These changes are significant enough to cause difficulty in a person’s day-to-day functioning, with at least 2 of the core symptoms present.

Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage affects the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. As each part of the brain is associated with unique functions, the symptoms of dementia will vary from person to person depending on the part(s) of the brain affected and the level of change that has taken place in the brain cells.
Dementia is not a normal part of aging. The symptoms can sometimes be confused with age-related slowing of the brain and might initially be ignored. If the symptoms of memory loss, difficulty with decision making and communication difficulties are affecting a person’s daily life, they are more suggestive of dementia and could require further investigation.

Alzheimer ’s disease is simply the most common type of dementia. 

It accounts for over 64% of all cases of dementia. Vascular dementia is the next most common type.

Alzheimer’s disease is a physical, progressive and degenerative disease of the brain characterized by memory loss, communication difficulties, disorientation regarding time and place and changes in personality and behaviour. Each of these symptoms affects a person’s ability to function independently.

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the appearance of plaques and tangles in the brain and affects the ability of the nerve cells to communicate with each other, ultimately causing the nerve cells to die. In addition to the loss of connections between cells, there is a decrease in the level of neurotransmitters that help transmit messages from one cell to the other. The affected parts of the brain may shrink as a result.
  • Plaques – abnormal collection of Beta amyloid protein in the spaces between the neurons (nerve cells )
  • Tangles - twisted strands of Tau protein that collect inside the nerve cells.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and the course of its progression can vary greatly from one person to another, depending on the parts of the brain affected and the rate of progression.

Reversible causes of dementia

Occasionally dementia can be caused by conditions that can be treated and reversed, such as:
  • Medication side effects
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
  • Depression
  • Delirium

For questions about dementia and to obtain a proper assessment, contact a physician.

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