Alzheimer’s and Dementia-The Differences

March 25, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

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The terms dementia and Alzheimer’s are often used interchangeably.  In fact, dementia is not Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s is not dementia, although, they are certainly related.

For example, let’s say you your stomach is bothering you. You can’t eat much and it’s difficult to drink.  At first you shrug it off and hope you’ll lose a few pounds, but then you try to ignore it and finally attempt to soothe it with over the counter medicines, nothing works.  You call your Dr. and make an appointment. A couple of days later, you find yourself in the Dr’s office.  She asks you some questions, examines you and declares, “You have an acute pain in your stomach.”  You think to yourself, “Uh….duh……tell me something I don’t already know.”

Well, if you take your grandfather to the Dr. because he is acting strange, and has a set of symptoms that concern you, and the Dr. says, “He has dementia,” and sends you home.  It is akin to telling you he has a pain, which brings me to my main point.

Dementia is a SYMPTOM.  It is caused by something.  What you know after hearing the word is simply this. The symptomology that caused you to take your grandfather to the doctor is called dementia.  The “pain in the brain,” so to speak, is dementia.  What you need to know now is, what is causing the dementia?  You can click on the link for a detailed definition, but for now, here’s a simple one from Dr. David Roeltgen.

“Dementia is an impairment of thinking and memory that interferes with a person’s ability to do things which he or she previously was able to do.”  Dementia is NOT a part of the normal course of aging.

There are many causes/types of dementia, some of the common ones are:

Parkinson’s disease, Picks disease, brain tumor, alcoholism, Acute B12 defeciency, Hunington’s disease, depression, multi-infarct, and of course, Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease: A progressive neurologic disease of the brain that leads to the irreversible loss of neurons and dementia. The clinical hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease are progressive impairment in memory, judgment, decision making, orientation to physical surroundings, and language. A working diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is usually made on the basis of the neurologic examination. A definitive diagnosis can be made only at autopsy. (Definition adapted from

So, it’s important for you to ask questions, do some research of your own and then ask the doctor to do more tests to discover the CAUSE of the dementia.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Alzheimer’s testing and diagnostic measures.

In the meantime, I’ll give you a “virtual” penny for your thoughts. Or if you’d rather comment privately, feel free to contact me at:  

Either way, I’d love to hear from you!

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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