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What is the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia?

 

Loretta Steinkohl is a geriatric nurse practitioner for Banner Baywood Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.

Question: My father has been experiencing signs of confusion and memory loss. My mother believes he may have Alzheimer's, but a friend believes he has dementia. What's the difference?

Answer: Dementia is a group of symptoms caused by changes in the brain that affect memory, ability to learn, personality, mood, language, behavior and coordination in a person who previously had intact cognitive abilities. Dementia has many causes.

About 10 percent of all dementias may be from a reversible cause such as an infection, dehydration, endocrine disorders, adverse reactions to medications or an underlying condition such as depression.

Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia and accounts for an estimated 60 percent of all diagnosed cases of dementia. Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, such as vascular dementia, Lewy Body Disease and dementia secondary to Parkinson's disease, are not reversible.

Mild and occasional forgetfulness are common as we age. However, when the memory loss is more severe and interferes with daily living, a person needs to be evaluated by a health-care provider. Management strategies are needed and are available.

Alzheimer's disease is a terminal disease that is estimated to occur in as many as 1 percent of adults at age 65, and increases to nearly half of adults at 85 and older. With the rise in the Baby Boomers, Alzheimer's disease is rapidly becoming a national health-care crisis.

Alzheimer's disease and related dementias not only affect the people with the disease, but also impact caregivers, families and friends through great emotional, physical and financial challenges. The goal of dementia treatment is to protect the aging brain and optimize quality of life and function for as long as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical in developing a management strategy for any person with dementia.

 

Page Last Modified: 08/23/2011
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