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Friday, May 10, 2013

Dementia vs Alzheimer's--What is the Difference?

Dementia and Alzheimer's disease are two entirely different medical conditions. There are some similarities in the beginning, but one is a series of conditions and the other is a fatal disease.

The term dementia itself refers to mental deficiency or impairment. The symptoms include impaired judgment, loss of memory and difficulty with language. Patients with dementia often have difficulty solving problems, planning and organizing. Alzheimer's disease, on the other hand, is recognizable by symptoms where the patient fluctuates between clear thinking and confusion, along with hallucinations and decreased attention span.

One way to think about the difference between the two is that Alzheimer's patients always have dementia, but dementia patients do not necessarily have Alzheimer's disease, although about 70-80 percent of dementia is caused by Alzheimer's. Other causes for dementia can include vitamin deficiency and thyroid problems, and these can often be corrected.

Alzheimer's, on the other hand, cannot be cured. It is a degenerative disease that spreads through the brain and gradually destroys it. Alzheimer's begins in the memory section of the brain and destroys simple memory. Language is affected in the next stage which makes it difficult for the patient to find the words to express themselves. Logic is at the front of the brain and the next area in which the disease destroys brain cells. The disease continues to attack the areas of the brain that control emotion, senses, deep memories, balance and coordination, and lastly breathing and heart function.

Alzheimer's is a slow, fatal disease that affects one in ten people over 65. It is a gradual disease that generally lasts 8-10 years for which there is no cure. Although symptoms of Alzheimer's are recognizable, 100% diagnosis is only possible following the death of the patient through examination of brain tissue.

Neither dementia or Alzheimer's are due to normal aging processes, and both are degenerative conditions that will get worse with time. The primary difference between the two is that Alzheimer's is a disease for which there is no cure and results in death.

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