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

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

The unfortunate surfacing of Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and age-related neurological ailments are worsened by a severe lack of information and understanding by those who have not had a family member touched by such ailments. Caregivers and patients suffer unduly because of the general public’s demonstrably weak grasp of these two medical terms. Fully defining both Alzheimer’s and Dementia allows those affected to understand their situation and options more acutely.

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How is Dementia a Symptom?

In much the same way that chills or congestion indicate the possibility of the flu, reduced cognitive functions display the possibility of a disease-based neurological impairment. Dementia is defined by the simultaneous evidence of several cognitive disruptions, including but not limited to:

  • -Decreased short-term or long-term memory.
  • -Difficulty utilizing an understood language.
  • -Poor judgment.
  • -Difficulty planning.
  • -Impaired spatial orientation and motor skills.
  • -Low attention span.

If an individual suffers through one or more of these symptoms to the extent that they disrupt normal functioning, that person is said to have Dementia. A dementia diagnosis also depends on the clear difference between the current and previous neurological performance.

For instance, an individual that previously displayed limited linguistic ability would not have that impairment factored into their dementia assessment.

What Defines an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis?

The presence of Alzheimer’s disease, or AD, is determined via a post-mortem investigation of the brain. The autopsies of AD sufferers display a significant reduction in brain matter within the cerebral cortex, hippocampal regions, and locus coeruleus cells. The delicate nature of the brain and the generally advanced age of AD patients make a fool-proof diagnosis difficult. Modern investigative procedures, such as CAT scans or MRIs, fall short of post-mortem analyses as they are unable to fully provide an adequate amount of topographical brain data.

The exact cause of AD is unknown. The most prevalent theory involves the production of a particular beta-amyloid protein. This theory predicates upon the effect that a particular protein, which is cleaved from beta-amyloid, has on brain cell death.

Much of the research from the amyloid theory stems from previous work on the cholinergic theory, which has since been partially discounted due to the ineffectiveness of derived medication.

The latest AD research has begun to implicate insulin and the brain’s unique metabolism of sugar as a possible cause. The promising nature of this theory centers on the increased role that insulin, diet and metabolic disease play in developed cultures.

What’s the Difference Between the Two?

Whereas Dementia is a grouping of symptoms related to reduced neurological function, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is a root cause of psychological impairment. Much like sneezing, itchy nose and watery eyes are symptoms of a deeper allergenic problem, reduced cognitive function, impaired memory and other losses in brain function are symptoms of an actual neurological disease state.

Many times the cause of dementia is determined to be Alzheimer’s. However, other neurological diseases, such as Lewy-Body-induced dementia and vascular dementia, result in the exhibition of dementive symptoms that cannot be attributable to AD.

In fact, some of the neurological diseases related to Dementia can actually be reversed. In such instances, it is highly beneficial to have a clear determination of cause, rather than a muddled understanding that confuses AD and dementia.

Natural Aging and Disease

Many individuals create a conceptual link between reduced mental function and aging. The observable discrepancies in different brains of the same age cause the veracity of this belief to be subject to scrutiny. The cognitive function does decline with age, but the degree of this decline is dependent on many factors.

Regardless, neither dementia nor AD is natural parts of aging. This fact remains true despite the sharp rise in AD diagnoses past age 85. Doctors in charge of patients with declining cognition illustrate a plateau of physical and mental functioning prior to rapid senescence before death. This description is sharply contrasted by Dementia or the symptoms of AD.


Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are related through a symptom/disease association. The public should make note of the distinct difference between the two in order to appreciably understand either diagnosis. Further, the general understanding of aging, cognitive decline and neurological disease should reflect the abnormal qualities that disease states confer. Care, treatment and understanding of these ailments can be directly helpful in the comfort of your loved one. Instead of an aged care facility, a hospital at home or in-home services can be more beneficial and ease the suffering.

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