Comparison between Alzheimer’s and Dementia

January 25, 2017

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80% of all cases. Dementia is a broad term for neurological conditions that involve some form of serious mental impairment, such as memory loss, confusion, and/or personality changes. Around 20% of dementias can be cured or at least treated, but many dementias that become progressively worse over time are incurable, as is currently the case with Alzheimer's. As such, the outcome for Alzheimer's disease and many forms of dementia is ultimately death.

 

Alzheimer’s

Dementia

About

Disrupts normal brain function, causing dementia. Memory, mental clarity, and at times even language capabilities become increasingly impaired over time. Produces physical changes in the brain, with some areas shrinking and others widening.
Not a specific disease, but rather a term that refers to symptoms of mental and communicative impairment found in a variety of brain conditions and diseases, including Alzheimer's. About 20% of dementia can be reversed.

Occurrence

Chance of developing Alzheimer's doubles every five years from age 65 to 85. About 5% of cases are caused by a rare and hereditary genetic mutation that results in early onset of the disease, usually between age 30 and 50.
Percentage of elderly suffering from some form of dementia increases with age, with 2% of those aged 65-69, 5% of those aged 75-79, and over 20% of those aged 85-90 experiencing symptoms. One third of those 90+ have moderate to severe dementia.

Causes

The cause of Alzheimer-related dementia is not known at this time, though hypotheses do exist. Genes, brain injuries, etc. may play major or minor role. Mainly affects elderly, but not a normal part of aging.
Dementia can be caused by a variety of illnesses, some potentially very treatable (e.g., nutritional deficiency), others—like Alzheimer's—not. Age is not the cause of dementia, but rather correlated with it.

Symptoms

Understood in three stages. Goes from slowly worsening memory loss (early stage), to personality changes and aggression (middle stage), to extreme physical and communicative deterioration (late stage).
Memory loss is the earliest and most common sign. Irritability, depression, and other personality changes are also common. In more severe or worsening cases, language difficulties may occur, and spatial understanding deteriorates.

Prognosis

Alzheimer's has no cure and slowly worsens until a patient dies. Most patients with Alzheimer's disease will live with the disease for 8-12 years.
Depending on the root cause, some dementia (about 20%) may be treated and even cured. However, most dementia is related to Alzheimer's, which is incurable.

Treatment

Treatment focuses on slowing the disease's progression through medication, consistent daily routines, cognitive therapy puzzles, gentle physical exercises if the patient is able, etc.
Depends on the cause. If treatable or reversible, may be as simple as changing medication dosage or taking a supplement.

Prevention

Cannot be prevented with certainty. Healthy eating, staying social, exercising / playing sports with low risk of brain injury, solving puzzles, continuing education may all help, however.
Cannot be prevented with certainty. Healthy eating, staying social, exercising / playing sports with low risk of brain injury, solving puzzles, continuing education may all help, however.