Alzheimer’s Disease versus Dementia, A Guide for your Family

Alzheimer’s Disease versus Dementia, A Guide for your Family

Alzheimer’s Disease versus Dementia, A Guide for your Family

We often hear the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s disease used interchangeably. This can be extremely confusing when you are dealing with a family member or loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another intellectual functioning disorder. Understanding dementia and Alzheimer’s disease will make it easier for you to understand why these two terms are often used to mean the same thing.

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, but there are many other brain disorders also considered to be types of dementia.  Work with your medical provider to discuss the various forms of dementia and how they relate to your diagnosis or the diagnosis of your loved one. Asking questions is an essential part of the process so you feel more informed.

Alzheimer’s Disease

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. This is typically seen in sixty percent or more of the patient who have dementia. The common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is memory issues, depression and communication problems. Other issues that can affect Alzheimer’s patients include psychiatric symptoms such as psychosis and delusions.

Late stages of Alzheimer’s disease can make it difficult for the patient to walk or swallow. Deposits of proteins on the brain and the death of neurons in the brain are the main signs seen on medical imaging.

Parkinson’s Disease

As any form of dementia progresses it can turn into Parkinson’s disease. This can be present in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Movement problems are the most prominent issue with Parkinson’s disease as patients are often seen struggling to keep their hands and body still.

The brain has suffered damage to the movement areas and the process is degenerative so the body will continue to struggle with its ability to control functions.

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Huntington’s Disease

A single gene located on chromosome four is the cause for this progressive form of dementia. Involuntary movements are often seen but also a rapid decline in reasoning skills.

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Mood changes that include irritability and depression can be seen in many patients as well as anger outbursts. As with other forms of dementia, Huntington’s Disease is progressive and patients suffer from different stages of the disorder.

Other forms of Dementia

Some of the other forms of dementia include: Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Frontotemporal Dementia, Mixed Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, and Vascular Dementia.

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Each of these forms of dementia has their own specific clinical findings but they all have one thing in common; they involve permanent damage to the brain that is not reversible. Different pathological and structural issues are present with each form of dementia and it takes a skilled doctor to determine which type of dementia a patient has.

So Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, but not all forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease. There are many other forms of dementia that a patient can suffer from.

Families who have a loved one who is diagnosed with any form of dementia should work with their health care provider to ensure they fully understand the diagnosis of their loved one. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your medical provider until you feel comfortable with the diagnosis and information you have received.

Any disease that affects the health of a family member can be extremely overwhelming, but a degenerative disease that affects the brain is very worrisome to families. Although there is not a cure for dementia there may be options available that will slow the disease process down.

There are also alternative medicines and therapies you can discuss with your medical provider to see if they might be an option for you or your loved one suffering from dementia.

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