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Alzheimer's vs. Dementia

November 1, 2013

Dementia vs Alzheimer's: What's the Difference?           November is National Alzheimer's Association Awareness Month-Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. -More than 5 million Americans suffer with Alzheimer’s Disease. -Someone develops Alzheimer’s Disease every 68 seconds. -1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer's or another dementia. -It is expected that 450,000 people will die from Alzheimer’s in 2013. -By 2050 the number is expected to TRIPLE. Source: ALZ.org There is often confusion and misunderstanding with the terms Alzheimer's disease and dementia, but there is a distinct difference. The term dementia refers to a set of symptoms, not the disease itself. These symptoms might include language difficulty, loss of recent memory or poor judgment. In other words, when an individual is said to have dementia they are exhibiting certain symptoms. With a thorough screening including blood tests (to rule out other causes of dementia such as vitamin deficiency),a mental status evaluation, neuro-psychological testing, and sometimes a brain scan, doctors can accurately diagnose the cause of the dementia symptoms in 90 percent of the cases. (It is true however, that Alzheimer's can be diagnosed with complete accuracy only after death, using a microscopic examination of brain tissue, which checks for plaques and tangles). Although Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60-70 percent of cases of dementia, other disorders that cause dementia include: Vascular dementia, Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy Bodies and Frontotemporal dementia. In the early stages of a disease, there can be some clear differences between the diseases. For example, in dementia with Lewy Bodies (the second most common cause of dementia) early symptoms of the disease may not be so much forgetfulness, but lowered attention span, recurrent visual hallucinations, and a fluctuation between periods of lucidity (or clear thinking) followed by periods of confusion. However, as the specific disease advances, more parts of the brain become affected, and the differences from one cause of dementia to another are subtle. Source: mayoclinic.com