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What is the Difference Between Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease? | Alzheimer’s vs Dementia

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Difference Between Dementia And Alzheimer's

Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia and Alzheimers can be hard to diagnose, not only because the exact cause is not known but because the symptoms tend to overlap between the two. Alzheimer’s and dementia affect millions of people every year. However, due to the lack of awareness, many of these cases remain undiagnosed and untreated. With the misinformation that surrounds aging, help is often sought at the last stage. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly slow down the progression and increase life expectancy. 

What is Dementia?

Dementia constitutes a group of symptoms showing an overall cognitive decline characterized by issues and impairment of memory, language, judgment, behavior, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities. It is of a chronic or progressive nature. 

Dementia is not a single disease. It is a comprehensive term that covers a wide range of specific medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, etc. The prime characteristic of dementia diseases is 'brain degeneration' and the disorders under this umbrella term 'dementia' are caused by abnormal brain changes.

What are the causes of dementia? 

Brain damage is a consequence of the loss of neurons or neuronal connections. The most common cause of dementia is the destruction of cells in the brain. Even though age is considered to be a strong factor contributing to dementia, dementia problems are not restricted to senile dementia and can also be offset in younger age groups.

What are the symptoms of dementia? 

Earlier there was a common notion that dementia is nothing but ‘senility’ - the cognitive changes with advanced age. But it is often difficult for families to understand the differences when it comes to aging vs. dementia vs. senility. It is a common myth that elderly people are likely to develop dementia.

Though dementia is most common in the older demographic, it is not just the senile who have the likelihood of developing dementia. People in their 40s can also show symptoms of the disease in the early stages leading to the early onset of dementia, but this only occurs when they have family members with dementia.

The symptoms of dementia become pronounced as the stages progress. Sometimes, dementia symptoms may also be caused due to two or more other diseases. Such a condition is known as Mixed Dementia. At early stages, dementia causes the emergence of symptoms such as:

  • An inability to accept changes to routine
  • Changes in short-term memory
  • An inefficiency at multitasking

At later stages, dementia may exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Increased difficulty in communication
  • Lack of personal hygiene

Whereas senility symptoms also include physical changes such as:

  • Stiff joints
  • Change in posture
  • Decreased strength
  • Wrinkling of the skin
  • Loss of vision or hearing
  • Brittle bones or bone loss

At the later stage of dementia, it becomes imperative for caregivers and family members to be present all the time to take care of the patient. At an advanced stage of dementia, complete dependency on the caregiver is expected. You can also check Dementia Rehab or assisted living facilities like Cadabams Hospitals.

What are the types of dementia? 

Different types of dementia depend on what type of brain cell is damaged in what particular regions of the brain. 

  • Alzheimer’s disease – It is the most common cause of dementia and is caused by the aggregation of proteins called plaques and tangles causing the brain cells to waste away. 
  • Lewy body dementia – It is caused by the formation of balloon-like clumps in the brain of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Lewy body dementia treatment comprises blood tests, brain scans several prescriptions of medications, and therapy recommendations. 
  • Vascular dementia – Another common type of dementia is caused by damage to the vasculature that supplies blood to the brain. This type of dementia can occur due to a brain stroke as well.
  • Frontotemporal dementia – It is a group of dementia that is characterized by damage to the frontal and temporal areas of the brain. Frontotemporal dementia causes damage mostly in terms of speaking ability, personality, and behavior. Occupational therapy is a great way for frontotemporal dementia treatment as it aims to help the patient get back on their feet by assisting them with understanding how to do their daily tasks properly.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease that is caused due to complex brain changes following cells to waste away, damage, and die. It slowly affects the brain causing impairment in cognitive abilities and memory. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive and worsens over time.

What are the causes of Alzheimer’s?

The cause of this is unknown. In Alzheimer’s disease, there is a formation of abnormal structures in the brain, which blocks communication between the brain cells leading to the death of brain cells. It is not possible to diagnose someone with this disease with complete accuracy, but the patient is diagnosed as having ‘probable Alzheimer’s disease’.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s? 

The symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s may overlap, but there are some differences. Similar symptoms include reduced ability to think, impairment in communication, and memory.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s mostly include -

  • Difficulty in remembering people and conversations
  • Forgetfulness
  • Poor judgment
  • Time and place confusion
  • Vision changes related to cataracts 
  • Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later
  • Making errors while managing finances and other tasks
  • Trouble finding the right word while having conversations
  • Misplacing things from time to time
  • Feeling uninterested in the family or social obligations
  • Becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted
  • Difficulty in doing tasks such as cooking, bathing, or grooming, and impaired language

What are the types of Alzheimer’s? 

There are no specific types of Alzheimer’s as it form of dementia. Hence keeping in mind the symptoms of this chronic condition is necessary for comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. 

How are Alzheimer's and Dementia treated?

A proper diagnosis of both dementia and Alzheimer’s is required to differentiate it from other mental health disorders that may exhibit similar symptoms. As there are different stages of the condition as well, there are several tests done for the proper diagnosis. Listed below are all of how dementia and Alzheimer’s are diagnosed:

  • Screening
  • Review of physical symptoms
  • Review of medications
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging scans
  • Psychological screening

Several treatment options can overlap for both dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, it is important to remember that while treatment for dementia can help reverse the symptoms, this does not hold for Alzheimer’s. 

Common treatment modalities include:


The most common type of dementia occurs due to Alzheimer’s disease. Here, medications are used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, such as cholinesterase inhibitors. One of the drugs used in senile dementia treatment that works by slowing down the breakdown of a chemical called acetylcholine. This chemical is designed to help the patient form memories and improve their judgment capabilities. It may also delay the worsening symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and subsequently dementia.

There can be some side effects of taking this drug as well. Patients and their caregivers should research about the side effects before going ahead with their medications. These medications can only be prescribed by a licensed medical professional. 

Non-Drug Therapy

In the case of frontotemporal dementia treatment, occupational therapy is the best way to manage the symptoms. This type of therapy takes the help of trained dementia caregivers to help the patient get back on their feet by assisting them with understanding how to do their daily tasks like bathing, dressing, or eating properly.

Mixed Approach

Lewy body dementia treatment comprises blood tests, brain scans prescriptions of medications as well as therapy recommendations. 

What is the outlook of people with dementia vs people with Alzheimer’s?

The outlook for patients suffering from dementia depends completely on the direct cause of dementia. The available treatments are used to make the symptoms of dementia manageable, but there is no surefire way of stopping the deterioration of the mind due to this disease.

Although vascular dementia can be slowed down in some cases, it can still shorten a patient’s lifespan. Some dementia variants are reversible, but most of them are irreversible and can cause physical and mental impairments, over time.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the highest leading causes of death among senior citizens. Approximately one in three people, aged 65 and above, will die from Alzheimer's disease or any other type of dementia. 

The life expectancy for patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease tends to vary depending on many factors; average life expectancy is three to eleven years (post-diagnosis), but people can go on to live with Alzheimer's for 20 years or more.

If the symptoms of Alzheimer's show at the age of 75, they are likely to live for another seven years or so, post-diagnosis. But, if the symptoms affect someone around the age of 90 then they are likely to live for another three years, approximately.

Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, the earlier the diagnosis is made and the earlier treatment begins, the better the outlook for the patient.

Table showcasing the main differences between the 2 illnesses

Dementia Alzheimer’s Disease
Dementia is an overall term that is used to describe symptoms that have an impact on the memory, communication ability, and overall performance of the person.Alzheimer's disease is a specific type of dementia that affects the language, memory, and thought processes of the individual.
With early diagnosis and treatment, the symptoms of dementia can be reversed. Symptoms of Alzheimer's can only be managed with treatment. However, they cannot be recversed. 



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

The main difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s is that the former is an umbrella term referring to neurodegenerative diseases characterized by cognitive decline while the latter is a specific brain disease associated with impairments in memory, language, and thought processes. Further, some symptoms of dementia can be reversed with treatment, however, this is not the case for Alzheimer’s disease. 

How can you tell if a person has Alzheimer’s or dementia?

Identifying the signs is a clear-cut way to determine if a person has Alzheimer’s or dementia. 

The signs of dementia include-

  • Forgetfulness
  • Limited social skills
  • Irritability 
  • Inability to speak or comprehend language 

The signs of Alzheimer’s disease include- 

  • Vision impairment 
  • Poor judgment 
  • Misplacing things 
  • Losing interest in activities 

Is all dementia a form of Alzheimer’s?

Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of neurodegenerative conditions associated with cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease falls under this umbrella term as it is one of the most common types of dementia. 

What are the 4 types of dementia?

The four types of dementia include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lewy Body dementia 
  • Vascular dementia 
  • Frontotemporal dementia 

What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and amnesia?

Alzheimer’s disease is a specific brain disease that is characterized by impairments in memory, language and thought processes. On the other hand, amnesia is another word for memory loss. 

Can you be forgetful and not have Alzheimer’s disease?

Although forgetfulness is a prominent sign of Alzheimer’s disease it is not always indicative of the same. Individuals can be forgetful as a result of other conditions like aging, medical illnesses, stress, and more. 

What is worse, Alzheimer’s or dementia?

Both Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can lead to severe impairments in cognitive functioning. Although the former is observed through mild symptoms while the latter involves major issues with functioning. 

Does everyone with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. However, there are other types including vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia. 

Can you have Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia at the same time?

It is common to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This is referred to as mixed dementia and is typically observed in individuals over the age of 75.

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