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Dementia & Alzheimer Disease Differences

Updated on September 21, 2018
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, and lifestyle are all important.

Dementia

Dementia is not a specific disease but really an umbrella term that describes several types of symptoms that can be caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain.

Significantly impaired intellectual functioning that interferes with normal activities and relationships describes dementia. Dementia patients also lose their ability to problem solve and maintain emotional control and they often experience major personality changes and behavior problems, such as agitation, delusions and hallucinations.

Grief of Alzheimer's

source flickr
source flickr

Dementia Symptoms

Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia but memory loss doesn't necessarily mean a person has dementia. Dementia is diagnosed by doctors only if two or more brain functions, like memory, language skills, perception or cognitive skills, including reasoning and judgment are significantly impaired without a loss of consciousness.

Some types of dementia may be halted or reversed with appropriate treatment and other types mainly to a progressive loss of mental functions. Alzheimer's disease is just one type of dementia.

Living with Dementia

Classification According to Location in the Brain

Dementia can be classified in several ways; sometimes it is classified as to which particular symptoms they have in common, and it is also classified as to which part of the brain is affected.

  • Cortical Dementia: This is where the brain damage primarily affects the brain's cortex or outer layer. Cortical dementias tend to cause problems with memory, language, thinking and social behavior.
  • Subcortical dementia: this dementia affects parts of the brain below the cortex and tends to cause changes in emotions and movement in addition to problems with memory.
  • Progressive dementia: This type of dementia gets worse over time, gradually interfering with more and more cognitive abilities.
  • Primary dementia: this dementia would include Alzheimer's disease that does not result from any other disease.
  • Secondary dementia: this dementia occurs as a result of a physical disease or injury.
  • Some dementias it into more than one classification, for instance, all Alzheimer's disease is considered both a progressive and a cortical dementia.
  • Cortical Dementia: This is where the brain damage primarily affects the brain's cortex or outer layer. Cortical dementias tend to cause problems with memory, language, thinking and social behavior.
  • Subcortical dementia: this dementia affects parts of the brain below the cortex and tends to cause changes in emotions and movement in addition to problems with memory.
  • Progressive dementia: This type of dementia gets worse over time, gradually interfering with more and more cognitive abilities.
  • Primary dementia: this dementia would include Alzheimer's disease that does not result from any other disease.
  • Secondary dementia: this dementia occurs as a result of a physical disease or injury.
  • Some dementias it into more than one classification, for instance, all Alzheimer's disease is considered both a progressive and a cortical dementia.

Types of Dementia Listed by Occurance

Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia for people 65 and older. There our up to 4 million people in the United States living with this disease; one in 10 people over the age of 65 1/2 of those over age 85. There our some early–onset forms of this disease usually link to a specific gene defect which may appear as early as age 30. T

ypically Alzheimer's disease usually causes a gradual decline in cognitive abilities over a span of 7 to 10 years. Nearly all brain functions are eventually affected, which include memory, movement, language, judgment, behavior, and abstract thinking. This is a heartbreaking diseases.

Vascular dementia, which makes up 20%, is the second leading cause of dementia, and is caused by brain damage from cerebral vascular or cardiovascular problems, usually strokes. It may result from genetic diseases, endocarditis (infection of a heart valve), or amyloid amyopathy.

This type of dementia may coexist with Alzheimer's. The symptoms of vascular dementia often begin suddenly, frequently after a stroke. Patients usually have a history of high blood pressure, vascular disease, or previous strokes or heart attacks.

It may or may not get worse over time depending on where the damage in the brain resides. People with vascular dementia frequently wander at night and often have other problems commonly found in people who had a stroke, including depression and incontinence.

Binswanger disease is another type of vascular dementia which is rare and is characterized by damage to small blood vessels in the white matter of the brain. It may lead to brain lesions, loss of memory, disordered cognition and mood changes. It has several other difficult affects but sometimes includes episodes of partial and recovery.

Lewey body (sometimes spelled Louie Body Dementia), is another form of dementia where you will see wide variations in attention and alertness. These patients will have vivid dreams, act out, yell out in their sleep and have tremors. They won't remember any of this in the morning. Louis bodies contain a protein that is been linked to Parkinson's disease.

The symptoms of fluid body overlap with Alzheimer's disease in many ways and include memory impairment, poor judgment confusion along with the symptoms already mentioned. There is no cure for this dementia the patient's do sometimes respond fairly well to drugs that treat Parkinson's disease which reduce the psychiatric symptoms..

Frontotemporal lobe dementia (FTD) also called Picke disease begins early in life and progress is very rapidly. These types of dementia are characterized by degeneration of nerve cells especially in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Experts believe these dementias account for 2 to 10% of all cases typically appearing between the ages of 40 and 65.

Quite often there is a family history of dementia suggesting a genetic factor in this disease. Some patients decline very rapidly over 2 to 3 years and others show only minimal change for many years. The average lifespan for someone diagnosed with FTD is 5 to 10 years after diagnosis.

How to Tell if It's Depression or Dementia

Dementia Types

The types of dementia described above are the more common the dementias found in the cortical dementia category, as there are too many types of dementia to include in one hub. The dementias in the subcortical brain occur primarily in patients who have other disorders that affect movement or other functions.

The relationships between the disorders are not always clear. As we've already mentioned Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's or Lewy body dementia may be found in one individual.

It is also possible to have a mixed dementia which means it goes along with heart disease and Alzheimer's, for instance, and causes mild cognitive impairment but doesn't necessarily cause full-blown Alzheimer's disease. There are half 1 million people from age 30 to 50 that have two categories of these genes.

Research

Research currently focuses on the different aspects of dementia trying to improve the lives of people affected and hoping to eventually cure these disorders. Researchers have found that a higher concentrations of clusterin, a protein in the blood plasma, might be the reason behind developing the disease, and also its progression and the level of the condition, researchers reported.

Other research may include study of genetic factors, neurotransmitters, and inflammation, factors that influence programs cell death in the brain and the roles of tau, beta amyloid, and associated neurofibrillary tangles and plaques in Alzheimer's disease There are many types of research ongoing and you can spend a whole day on the computer just reading about them.

Brain Differences - Normal VS Alzheimers Disease

Is there anything you can do to help prevent dementia?

There are few things you can do to minimize the possibility of getting this disease as the more you stimulate your brain the more connections your brain makes which is better. Such things as learning a foreign language, drawing crossword puzzles, and anything that is mentally challenging is a plus. Research has shown that learning a foreign language can offset Alzheimer's for up to four years. Changing your routine can be helpful such as driving to work or a familiar place by a different route, getting out and doing something different with a friend, eat healthy and exercise regularly can all be helpful.

In Conclusion

There are many aspects of these diseases that I didn't include in this article due to its long length. For example, treatments, the progression of the diseases, and the role of the caregiver which could be a whole hub unto itself.

Dementia is a very tragic disease which is hard on the patient and particularly the family that love them. I certainly hope there will be a cure in the not too distant future or at least better treatments that will lessen the symptoms.

The copyright, renewed in 2018, for this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

Comments

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  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 years ago from Sunny Florida

    adrienne, I am so glad the article was helpful to you. I believe knowledge is power. Thank you for your comments.

  • adrienne2 profile image

    Adrienne F Manson 

    6 years ago from Atlanta

    Pamela thank you so very much for sharing all of this information. You really have shed a lot of light of Dementia. I learned a great deal, and didn't realize there were so many different types of dementia. You dont know how much you have helped me with your article. Its a scary disease, but knowing, and having an understanding of it can make a difference. Thanks again. Voted up!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Micky Dee, You sure do write beautiful poetry and good hubs. I think staying busy is good for us all. Thanks for your comments.

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 

    7 years ago

    I have all the symptoms. I may be somewhat normal. We'll try to stay busy. God bless you Pam!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    JY, Thank you so much for your comment.

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 

    7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

    Very good job Pam

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Sandy, I thought the comparison was helpful also and this is the last thing I want to happen to me. I appreciate your comments.

    Katie, I am so sorry to hear about your mother and I hope she doesn't have dementia. I can only imagine what an awful time this is for you. I went to a seminar on Alzheimer's recently which is why I got all this information and decided you know what a good thing to write about. I'm glad it was there when you needed it. Peace and Blessings.

  • katiem2 profile image

    katiem2 

    7 years ago from I'm outta here

    My Mom just had a stroke and they've been discussing dementia to us during her evaluation. The test are not all back and she just had a MRI but it's frightening.

    I hung on your every word and wanted to say, this is an amazing article on dementia the term that describes symptoms of brain disorders.

    I feel more comfortable with this knowledge and know I can trust it coming from you. Thank you and I feel so blessed I came here to see you'd written this much needed and timely report. :) Katie

  • Sandyspider profile image

    Sandy Mertens 

    7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

    Good comparison. Any thing that effects the brain has to be the worst thing to happen to a person.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Pamela, That is an important distinction. Thank you so much for your comment.

    Dallas, I know many people are living with this problem and I want to bring more understanding for those that aren't. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • dallas93444 profile image

    Dallas W Thompson 

    7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

    Thanks for this information. Many of us know or have relatives who experience this troubling behavior.

    Flag up!

  • Pamela N Red profile image

    Pamela N Red 

    7 years ago from Oklahoma

    Great article on giving the differences. Being forgetful once in a while doesn't mean Alzheimer's.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Martie, I appreciate your comments.

    Blisswriter,I like that dark chocolate and coffee are getting reviews. I wrote some information about prevention through healthy habits in my second hub following this one on Alzheimer's disease. I will check yours out also. Thanks for the comments.

  • BlissfulWriter profile image

    BlissfulWriter 

    7 years ago

    It is good to start and maintain healthy lifestyle early in order to prevent or avoid dementia in later life. This includes exercise and eating right. But some surprising evidence is showing that coffee and chocolate may be good for brain health. I wrote Hubs about it: http://hubpages.com/t/208bcf

  • MartieCoetser profile image

    Martie Coetser 

    7 years ago from South Africa

    Pamela, thank you so much for this well-researched and well-presented information about Dementia. This actually scares me, like all possible disasters that may hit me in the future. Bookmarked and voted UP in all ways.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    2besure, Thanks so much for your comment.

    Bethany, I agree that it is scary to think about but knowledge is power. I appreciate your comments.

  • profile image

    Bethany Culpepper 

    7 years ago

    Pamela, Thank you for the information and explaining the differences. I especially like the "What's the Difference" chart. It's a scary thing to think about, but so important to understand.

  • 2besure profile image

    Pamela Lipscomb 

    7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

    Thanks for shedding more light on dementia. It is a devastating disease. Voted up

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Kindacrazy, I really appreciate your comments. Thanks.

  • Kindacrazy profile image

    Kindacrazy 

    7 years ago from Tennessee

    Pamela, you did an excellent job of explaining the differences. My father-in-law had dementia and my mother-in-law has Alzheimer's, and yes, there is a big difference in the behavior's. Voted UP

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Tony, I was in the dark as I thought you just wanted to be a "fun guy". :-)

  • tony0724 profile image

    tony0724 

    7 years ago from san diego calif

    Pamela you realize there are many here who say I have dementia and brain damage.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    drbj, Thank you so much for your comment. I thought many people thought dementia and Alzheimer's was the same thing and I attended a seminar recently that explained it so well that I wanted to share some of that information.

    rpalulis, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and thank you for the comments.

    Hello, I agree with you. Thanks for your comments.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    7 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you, Pamrela, for all you hard research and work to be able to explain dementia. It is very scary and hopefully they find a cure soon.

  • rpalulis profile image

    rpalulis 

    7 years ago from NY

    I never realized there were different forms of dementia and how serious it can be. Thanks for sharing this Pamela, very well written and packed full of useful information.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    7 years ago from south Florida

    Brava, Pamela, for this thorough, research-based examination of the various forms of dementia. Your easy-to-understand explanations should go a long way in helping your readers understand what dementia is and possible means of prevention or delaying onset.

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