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Alzheimer’s & Dementia – Important Differences


If you have been confused by the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s”, or mistakenly thought that they were the same thing, watch this film. Knowing the difference can be essential.

What Is the Difference between Alzheimer’s disease And Dementia?

Perhaps you’ve been confused by these terms in the past or mistakenly taught they were the same thing? Well you wouldn’t be alone because knowing the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia can be tricky. But it’s actually not too hard to understand.

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In a nut shell, it’s like the difference between shortness of breath and asthma. Shortness of breath is not a specific disease, it can happen to anyone and has many different causes and asthma is just one of them.

Likewise, dementia is not one specific disease. It is a combination of symptoms that has many different causes including Alzheimer’s disease.

Still confused? Think of it like this- You go to your doctor with shortness of breath to find the cause she listens to your chest to see if it’s due to asthma or pneumonia. And then she checks your heart to see if your breathlessness is caused by heart failure or a very rapid heartbeat. She even asks if you’ve been worried because your breathing difficulty could be anxiety related. After her examinations she concludes that your shortness of breath is actually a nut allergy.

Similarly when dealing with dementia your doctor needs to figure out the underlying cause and whilst Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia it is not the only one.

Dementia can also be caused by vascular changes in the brain, Parkinson disease, Lewy body disease, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid gland problems, chronic brain infections or medications. Even a very deep depression can look like dementia. Which means if someone you love has dementia, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have Alzheimer’s disease.

This is very important for your doctor to establish because some causes of dementia such as infection, medication reactions an underactive thyroid gland and vitamin deficiencies can be reversible with the right treatment. So figuring out the cause and plan of action could improve your quality of life and that’s why if you or a loved one have the symptoms of dementia, you need to see your doctor to find out the underlying cause.

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June 27, 2017 4:28 pm

i like to think of it as 'dementia' is like the word 'cancer' and "alzheimers" is a specific cancer like "breast cancer" or "prostate cancer"

Reply to  Anonymous
May 4, 2020 1:12 pm

I think your comparison of dementia and cancer is inaccurate. Cancer IS a disease, dementia is not.

July 3, 2019 12:37 pm

My husband was diagnosed o er 2 years ago with frontal temporal Dementia, due to atrophy and following a Nuclear medicine scan of his brain showing g amyloid plaque. No one here has ever mentioned, depression, vitamin deficiency, lewy body etc..yet he started with hallucinations 13 years ago and following the sudden death of our pet dog, he spiralled into a depression. Should I go back and query this with the doctor??? They have him on prometax patches, Ebixa and Deprax.

B. Berger

B. Berger

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chaffe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. With a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia appearing on the internet every 7 minutes, the site’s focus on the best information has been a help to many over the past 15 years. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor


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