Is Alzheimer’s a type of dementia? Or Is dementia a type of Alzheimer’s? Or are the two terms used interchangeably as far as the general public is concerned? What’s important to remember is that individuals can develop symptoms at any age, meaning that understanding the conditions of both Alzheimer’s and dementia is an important part of learning to spot the symptoms in others and in yourself. Although the symptoms do overlap, the two conditions are distinct from one another. Where symptoms do not match those known to the conditions, you may also need to research ‘can lung cancer spread to the brain?’ For now, let’s look at the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia…beginning with dementia.

Understanding dementia 

Technically speaking, dementia isn’t a disease. Instead, we refer to dementia as a syndrome. This means that while the patient may exhibit symptoms of the condition at large, a definitive diagnosis is not possible (because the condition is actually a group of conditions). Memory and cognition will likely be affected, with the patient unable to reason for themselves. Forgetfulness also often leads to unfortunate side effects such as anger and aggression. Mixed dementia is where patients suffer from a mixture of related symptoms, which can impact the wellbeing and independence of previously alert people who were capable of looking after themselves (this typically places a huge emotional and financial burden on families). Although dementia can occur due to a variety of reasons or conditions, Alzheimer’s is the most common.

Understanding Alzheimer’s disease

Unlike dementia, which is an umbrella term for related conditions, Alzheimer’s is an understood progressive condition affecting mental cognition that takes a predictable route. The condition begins with an abnormally high level of protein being deposited in the brain, which causes tangles in the mental pathways. This leads to confusion as the connectivity between normal healthy brain cells is lost. Eventually, the brain cells begin to die. The condition is not actually possible to definitively diagnose until such time as the brain matter can be inspected upon death. In advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, patients can expect to suffer difficulty with speech, eating, drinking, and walking (including balance). Hallucinations and disturbed sleep are also common symptoms. The condition leads to a slow decline over a period of years, with no complete cure available – some people able to survive up to 20 years (beginning treatment as promptly as possible is advised). 

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