Monday, April 24, 2017
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease: Seven ways to tell the conditions apart: VIDEO
Brain health: Alzheimer's and dementia are different
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia - both brain conditions - are often confused, but there are a number of differences between the two.
Dementia is the gradual decline of the brain and its abilities, including memory, thinking speed, mental agility, language, understanding and judgement.
The risk of developing it increases as you get older, but it usually occurs in those over 65, meaning the number of sufferers is increasing as people are living longer. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, an estimated one million of the UK population will have it by 2021.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, and currently affects 850,000 people in this country. While increasing age is thought to be a factor, family history, lifestyle factors and past head injuries can also be a cause.
Becoming forgetful is usually the first indication of Alzheimer’s, but other symptoms gradually develop, including confusion, difficulty making decisions, hallucinations, personality changes and problems with speech.
Despite their similarities, there are several reasons why they should be thought of as different.
1. Alzheimer’s causes dementia
It accounts for two-thirds of dementia cases, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
However, there are many other known causes of dementia, including strokes, head injuries and brain tumours.
A recent study by the University of Oxford also found that having an autoimmune disease can up your risk, and according to another recent study published in The Lancet, so can living in urban areas close to traffic.
2. Unlike dementia, we know very little about the cause of Alzheimer’s
In addition to suggestions by researchers that family history probably plays a role, a recent study by the University of Bath suggested that a diet high in sugar was to blame, while another 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal found that taking benzodiazepine to calm your nerves or sleep better, could trigger the disease.
All we currently know for certain is that there are changes in the brain beyond those associated with normal ageing, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK. Researchers are currently looking into why two key proteins build up in the brain, and how they damage nerve cells.
3. Alzheimer’s is a disease, but dementia is not
Dementia is a syndrome - which means a group of symptoms that consistently occur together, not a specific disease - In fact, it’s just the term to group memory loss, difficulty thinking, problem solving, or issues with language, together.
4. The diagnosis for both is different
A person diagnosed with dementia is actually only being diagnosed with a set of symptoms. After blood tests, mental status evaluation, neuropsychological testing, and sometimes a brain scan, doctors can accurately diagnose the cause of the dementia symptoms in 90 percent of cases, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Alzheimer’s disease, on the other hand, can only be diagnosed with complete accuracy after death when a proper examination of brain tissue can take place.
5. There are several types of dementia
In addition to Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia include vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
An estimated 10 per cent of people with dementia have more than one type. According to The Alzheimer’s Society the most common combination is Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia.
6. Symptoms may differ in the early stages
There may be are differences at the onset of the various forms of dementia.
Alzheimer’s develops very slowly and gradually over several years, whereas in dementia with Lewy Bodies - the second most common type - early symptoms include lowered attention span, recurrent visual hallucinations, and a fluctuation between periods of lucidity (or clear thinking) as opposed to forgetfulness, according to the Mayo Clinic.
As the various forms of dementia advance in the brain, the symptoms become more similar.
7. Dementia can be reversible, but Alzheimer’s isn’t
At present Alzheimer’s disease is degenerative and incurable. In contrast, some forms of dementia are reversible. A 2015 study published in The Journal of Geriatric Health identified types - particularly those where dementia is as a result of nutritional deficiency or particular drugs - as being temporary.
Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by EXPRESS
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