Fact or Myth: "Dementia is a Form of Alzheimers?"
Do you know the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s? Have you or someone you know ever said, “dementia is a form of Alzheimer’s?” Well, you’re not alone! It’s actually very common for people to confuse the two terms and use them interchangeably. In fact, 60-70% of cases are Alzheimer’s, so it makes sense why so many people think of Alzheimer’s and not dementia. In this first blog post of our dispelling myth series, we will be breaking down this MYTH by explaining what is dementia and what are some of the different diseases that fall under it.
The Truth About Dementia
It is important to understand that dementia is not a disease, but is a syndrome. It’s a descriptive term used to describe a set of symptoms affecting one's memory, cognitive ability, and social ability, making it difficult for people with dementia to independently perform activities of daily living as communication between brain cells become hindered.
It may be easier to picture dementia as an umbrella. Imagine the tip of the umbrella is dementia, where all the underlying diseases have the same symptoms in common. The different types of dementia can be thought as the various gores of the canopy - they fall under their own category based on additional symptoms specific to the disease, which impacts different parts of the brain.
Four Most Common Types of Dementia and How They Differ
Alzheimer’s disease is irreversible and causes brain cells to shrink or die. This brings forth signs of memory loss, language deterioration, poor judgment and impairs one’s ability to understand visual information. In the beginning, Alzheimer’s disease can begin slowly, making it difficult to recognize the signs but most commonly people with AD will begin to show a decline in short term memory, forgetting names of people they know or display trouble remembering recent events. As the disease progresses, symptoms will worsen and they may display difficulty recognizing family members, experience trouble communicating and they may forget how to perform everyday activities, along with signs of aggression and wandering.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies:
Lewy Bodies with Dementia is one of the most commonly seen types of dementia in older adults but also one of the hardest to diagnose because it shares many common symptoms with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. LBW occurs when abnormal structures, called Lewy Bodies, build up in areas of the brain that control parts of memory and motor control. Some symptoms may include, memory lapses, language and reasoning deterioration, and visual hallucinations.
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) is caused by shrinking of the frontal and temporal anterior lobes of the brain. It has a strong genetic component and causes problems with both understanding and speaking. Symptoms fall into 2 categories, 1-changed behavior, or 2- problems with language, both affecting the individual differently depending on which category their symptoms fall under.
Also referred to as Vascular Dementia is caused by a series of small strokes which are brought on by a disruption of blood supply to the brain, usually affecting people between the ages 55-75. Vascular Dementia is the second most common form of dementia. Symptoms include memory problems, difficulty communicating, and the inability to perform simple tasks. Symptoms depend on which area of the brain has been affected.
We hope this overview provided some clarification on dementia and the different types of diseases that stem from this syndrome. Throughout the summer of 2019, we will be implementing an ongoing blog series that will dispel various myths about dementia. Don’t miss a thing - subscribe to our blog!
If you have any more questions regarding dementia/dementia care, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to help.
The Dementia: Understanding the Journey Society, 2016 (7th edition)