Unfortunately, many people - even health professions - confuse Dementia and Alzheimer's, or use the terms in an interchangeable manner. Understanding the difference between Dementia and Alzheimer's is important as they are not the same; Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disease, and sufferers will have dementia. Whilst dementia itself is a very broad term, covering a number of symptoms, it is not always a result of Alzheimer's. Whilst those who suffer from dementia can be upset by the condition, as can those who look after them, it is important to know that dementia can be the result of many different illnesses or even medicines, and not necessarily because someone has Alzheimer's.
Dementia can refer to a number of symptoms, such as loss of memory, confusion, lack of problem solving ability, and personality or mood changes. These can be alarming both for the sufferer and also those around them, however can sometimes be brought on by other factors and are not necessarily because someone has Alzheimer's. Head or brain injury, caused by either an accident or illness, can lead to some dementia, however medication and recovery can relieve this. Some medication can mimic dementia, and in extreme cases, substance abuse can also lead to dementia. Often, causes of dementia can be relieved simply, such as dementia through malnutrition or through the pressure caused by operable brain tumours.
Occasionally, the term dementia is used for those with Alzheimer's as people can feel that dementia is a less threatening and worrying diagnosis than saying someone has Alzheimer's, however this does not help to clarify the widespread confusion between the two terms. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that destroys brain cells, gradually removing the sufferer's ability to remember things, carry out everyday tasks, communicate with others and learn new things. Symptoms tend to become apparent after the age of 60, however should not be considered a natural part of ageing. Scientists have not yet found the cause of Alzheimer's. Because the brain cells are being destroyed, there is no way to restore them, only delay the disease attacking the brain further.
The crossover between the two terms is apparent, however it's important that professional medical advise is sought, rather than relying on self diagnosis, as dementia itself can have a number of causes, some of which can be relieved. There are a number of tests and examinations carried out to ascertain whether someone has Alzheimer's, including a full physical examination, looking at the patient's abilities and capacity, family history and blood tests, before also requesting an MRI or CT scan to examine the brain function. Doctors will also be looking for other causes of the symptoms, such as childhood brain injury or stress. An Alzheimer's diagnosis is not reached without a great deal of investigation.