Alzheimer’s symptoms: What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?

Alzheimer’s symptoms cause a range of issues and can be terrifying for both sufferers and their families, who can do little more than look on while their relatives deteriorate. The disease is known to strip people of their personalities and eventually their lives but in a torturously slow fashion.

What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

Alzheimer’s is a disease which causes “plaques” and “tangles” to build up in the brain, causing cell death.

The process causes progressive brain damage, and over time will eventually lead to death.

Dementia, on the other hand, is the name of a group of symptoms which arise as a result of other diseases.


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Dementia symptoms include the following according to the NHS:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty in carrying out daily tasks, such as struggling to follow a conversation
  • Confusion over time and place
  • Mood changes

Symptoms specific to Alzheimer’s disease include the following:

  • Memory problems – regularly forgetting recent events, names and faces
  • asking questions repetitively
  • Increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require organisation and planning
  • becoming confused in unfamiliar environments
  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Difficulty with numbers and/or handling money in shops
  • Becoming more withdrawn or anxious

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Dementia begins as a condition known as mild cognitive impairment, and some people never progress beyond this.

Doctors have identified a variety of different types of dementia, each caused by a different process.

For example, people with vascular dementia have a lack of oxygen in the brain following a blood vessel disease or a stroke.

Dementia with Lewy bodies is the result of abnormal bodies in the brain which prompt cell death.

Some of the various causes come with specific symptoms which may depend on which area of the brain is receiving damage.

As it is a group of symptoms, dementia in itself does not cause death in a sufferer.

Instead, their deaths come as the result of impaired ability to deal with another condition, or the symptoms show an underlying lethal cause.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and eventually leads to death, with treatments focussed on delaying its progression or reducing symptoms.

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