by: Alvaro Maldonado
What is Dementia?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and stroke define dementia as the loss of cognitive functioning to the extent that it interferes with daily life and activities. The Retrovirology journal does not describe dementia as a disease but rather a descriptive term for a set of symptoms because of the damage and disorders affecting the brain. Some of the symptoms in the areas memory, thinking, and social abilities could be severe enough to affect daily activities. According to the mayo clinic, dementia is mostly associated with memory loss but memory loss could be caused for many reasons other than dementia. Some of the diseases that cause dementia are Alzheimer, Lewy bodies, Huntington and Parkinson. Mohamad Ghafori from the Center for Neurovirology of Temple University believes that the leading causes of dementia are viral agents, in other words, a virus infecting the brain. Many conditions that cause dementia symptoms can be slowed or reversed with the proper treatment. Patients suffering from advanced dementia symptoms need a daily assistant, constant care, and supervision. Dementia is more common in elderly people but it is not a normal part of aging.
Some of the symptoms of dementia are:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty communicating
- Personality change
- Confusion and disorientation
- Difficulty handling complex tasks
What is Alzheimer’s?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and stroke define Alzheimer Disease (AD) as a non-reversible brain disorder that develops over the years. It is age-related. The Mayo Clinic describes it as a progressive disease that destroys memory and other mental functions. People with Alzheimer’s Disease start by experiencing memory loss, especially forgetting newly learned information, and confusion. The most misunderstood symptom is the difficulty to remember, it is associated to aging instead to Alzheimer’s. As the disease develops it leads to behavior and personality changes. AD is the most common cause of dementia among people over the age of 65.
The brain experiences some changes as the disease develops. Some of the brain components affected by Alzheimer’s are the Amyloid Plaques, Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), and the loss of connection between the neurons responsible for memory and learning. Neurons need other neurons to survive and live, and as the connections are lost, the neurons that are left alone die. As the neurons fail and die, the brain tissue shrinks, and toward the end of the disease the brain has shrunk dramatically. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but with the correct medications and management strategies patients could improve and delay the progression of the disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, once the symptoms are noticeable to other people, an AD patient could live between 4 to 20 years depending on different conditions, but on average they live for eight years once that happens.
Some of the symptoms related to Alzheimer Disease are:
- Memory loss. This starts with occasional lapses and develops into forgetting conversations, events, places and familiar faces.
- Struggle to think and reason.
- Difficulty making decisions and plans.
- Changes in personality such as depression, apathy, social withdrawal or irritability.
Difference between Dementia and Alzheimer
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of Dementia. Livescience magazine quotes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stating that Alzheimer’s accounts for 50 to 70 percent of dementia cases in people over the age of 65. It is important not to confuse Alzheimer’s with dementia.
As Alzheimer’s causes dementia, it shares some of the symptoms such as memory loss, personality changes, paranoia or delusion. Some of these same symptoms in dementia could be caused by other diseases, not limited only to AD, such as Parkinson’s or Lewy Body Disease. One of the main differences between Dementia and Alzheimer’s is that Alzheimer’s symptoms progress slowly over time and are irreversible. Dementia symptoms could be reversible, especially if they are caused by a vitamin deficiency or a drug interaction.
Dementia is the loss of cognitive skills such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning that interferes with a person’s daily activities and life. Dementia could be caused by different disorders or diseases. Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive mental disease that deteriorates and eventually kills brain neurons. Comprehending the effects of the disease is important to be able to understand the people suffering of the Alzheimer, and be able to help them.
To read more about Alzheimer’s and how to treat it, check out 5 ways Cannabis can help Alzheimer’s Patients.
Alvaro Maldonado is a Guatemalan communicator, business administrator, and sports journalist. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Universidad Rafael Landivar (Guatemala) and an MBA from Johnson & Wales (RI). He seeks to share his experience through interesting content with a proper investigation. Follow him on twitter @rojomaniatico