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How Is Alzheimer’s Different From Other Dementias

Dementia Vs Alzheimers Disease

Signs & Symptoms of Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias

Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of diseases that are characterized by cognitive declineand then Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia under that umbrella, says Zaldy S. Tan, M.D., M.P.H., director of theCedars-Sinai Health System Memory and Aging Program. So while theyre related, theyre not interchangeable terms. Dementia as a whole is tricky because theres no questionnaire that you can fill out and say, Oh, I have this type of dementia, says Dr. Tan. Its very complex and the presentations vary from person to person so if you have two people and they both have Alzheimers disease, their presentation may be quite different.

The Difference Between Alzheimer’s And Dementia

The main difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is that Alzheimer’s is a disease, and dementia is not. Instead, it’s an umbrella term for a group of symptoms that includes memory loss, a decline in language and comprehension skills, a reduction in judgment skills, and the inability to think through tasks, such as finding your way home from the store, preparing a meal, or getting dressed.

Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is a disease that causes this set of symptoms. Currently, there are more than five million people in the United States who have Alzheimer’s disease, and scientists predict that this number will increase to 14 million by 2050.

Medications To Treat The Underlying Alzheimer’s Disease Process

Aducanumab is the first disease-modifying therapy approved by the FDA to treat Alzheimers disease. The medication helps to reduce amyloid deposits in the brain and may help slow the progression of Alzheimers, although it has not yet been shown to affect clinical outcomes such as progression of cognitive decline or dementia. A doctor or specialist will likely perform tests, such as a PET scan or analysis of cerebrospinal fluid, to look for evidence of amyloid plaques and help decide if the treatment is right for the patient.

Aducanumab was approved through the FDAs Accelerated Approval Program. This process requires an additional study after approval to confirm the anticipated clinical benefit. If the follow-up trial fails to verify clinical benefit, the FDA may withdraw approval of the drug. Results of the phase 4 clinical trial for aducanumab are expected to be available by early 2030.

Several other disease-modifying medications are being tested in people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimers as potential treatments.

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Where Mild Cognitive Impairment Fits In

Diagnosing and determining the type of dementia a person has can also get tricky because some people dont have full-blown dementiathey have what doctors refer to as mild cognitive impairment or MCI. With dementia, Dr. Scharre says, you often need other people to do activities for you that you used to be able to manage on your own , but with MCI, you can still do those things even if you need a bit of prompting. So youre forgetful, youre less efficient, and maybe you need verbal clues, but you can still do the function yourselfthats MCI, says Dr. Scharre.

Abnormal Buildup In The Brain


The buildup of two abnormal structures in the brain, called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, is common in AD. The buildup may be part of the cause, although scientists are unclear about if these findings could be the result of the disease instead.

Amyloid plaques are clumps of beta-amyloid, a piece of a protein that is found in the normal brain. When these beta-amyloid proteins clump together, they form plaques that can disrupt communication between nerve cells and cause brain inflammation. People with AD have an abundance of these plaques in the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in memory. The transfer of short-term memories into long-term memories is often disrupted in AD. Learn about other symptoms of Alzheimers disease.

Neurofibrillary tangles are fibrous tangles of an abnormal protein called tau. Tau is an important fiber-like protein that keeps microtubules in the brain stable. Microtubules move nutrients, molecules, and information to other cells. When tau is harmfully altered, possibly due to genetic mutation, the fibers get twisted up together. This makes the microtubules unstable and causes them to disintegrate. This effect can collapse the whole neuron transport system.

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Treatment Options For Alzheimers And Dementia

There are treatments available for some causes of dementia, and one of these is Alzheimers disease. The aim of treatment is to help the person to manage their daily life independently for as long as possible. The most commonly used dementia treatment are medicines which treat the symptoms of Alzheimers and can help slow the progress of, but wont stop, the underlying disease itself. Unfortunately, they dont work for everyone. Its also important to remember that they dont cure or reverse Alzheimers.

These medicines can also have a similar effect in another type of dementia called dementia with Lewy bodies. But for other types of dementia, like vascular dementia, there are no known treatments yet.

What Is Alzheimers Disease

In Alzheimers disease, researchers believe that a buildup of unusual proteins forms plaques and tangles in the brain and causes symptoms.

These proteins surround brain cells and can affect their ability to communicate. This eventually causes damage to the cells until they can no longer function.

have found that these buildups occur in specific areas of the brain, including the hippocampus. This region plays a crucial role in long-term memory recall.

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Is There Treatment Available

At present there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, one group of drugs called cholinergeric drugs appears to be providing some temporary improvement in cognitive functioning for some people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Drugs can also be prescribed for secondary symptoms such as restlessness or depression or to help the person with dementia sleep better.

Community support is available for the person with Alzheimer’s disease, their families and carers. This support can make a positive difference to managing dementia. Dementia Australia provides support, information and counselling for people affected by dementia. Dementia Australia also aims to provide up-to-date information about drug treatments.

Further help

For more information contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

For a range of books and videos contact our Library.

For advice, common sense approaches and practical strategies on the issues most commonly raised about dementia, read our Help Sheets.

Managing Alzheimer’s Disease Behavior

Frontotemporal Dementia is Different from Other Dementias

Common behavioral symptoms of Alzheimers include sleeplessness, wandering, agitation, anxiety, and aggression. Scientists are learning why these symptoms occur and are studying new treatments drug and nondrug to manage them. Research has shown that treating behavioral symptoms can make people with Alzheimers more comfortable and makes things easier for caregivers.

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Whats The Difference Between Alzheimers And Dementia

This article is more than three years old. It reflects the best available evidence at the time of publication.

When it comes to getting older, some of the most common fears people have are around Alzheimers and dementia. These are two words we hear used a lot when it comes to older peoples health and care … but what do they actually mean? And whats the difference between the two?

Treating Alzheimers Disease Vs Other Types Of Dementia

Neither Alzheimerâs nor most other types of dementia have a cure. Doctors focus treatments on managing symptoms and keeping the disease from getting worse.

Some of the treatments for dementia and Alzheimerâs overlap.

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors can help with memory loss in certain types of dementia and Alzheimerâs.
  • Glutamate inhibitors help with learning and memory in both dementia and Alzheimerâs.
  • Sleep medications may help with sleep changes.
  • Antidepressants can help with depression symptoms.
  • Antipsychotic medications may help with behavior changes.

Some types of dementia respond to treatment, depending on what is causing it. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Stopping the use of drugs and alcohol
  • Tumor removal

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You Asked: Whats The Difference Between Alzheimers Disease And Dementia

While often used interchangeably, dementia and Alzheimers disease are not the same. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimers disease is a specific type of dementia that causes memory loss and impairment of other important mental functions. An expert from the Texas A& M School of Public Health describes how these conditions can impact the lives of both patients and those around them, and provides insights into ways of minimizing risks.

Health Environmental And Lifestyle Factors

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Research suggests that a host of factors beyond genetics may play a role in the development and course of Alzheimers. There is a great deal of interest, for example, in the relationship between cognitive decline and vascular conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Ongoing research will help us understand whether and how reducing risk factors for these conditions may also reduce the risk of Alzheimers.

A nutritious diet, physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits have all been associated with helping people stay healthy as they age. These factors might also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimers. Researchers are testing some of these possibilities in clinical trials.

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Myths About Dementia And Alzheimers Disease

The right treatment and support are critical to the well-being of anyone diagnosed with any form of dementia, so its important to know fact from fiction when it comes to these common myths.

Myth: Dementia is a normal part of aging.

Fact: Dementia is a disease of the brainnot a normal part of aging. Forgetting where you put your keys is a common problem for a lot of people as they age. But signs of dementia are more than just moments of forgetfulness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . With dementia, a person may be unable to complete ordinary tasks at home or at work, get lost in familiar places and forget the function of common items. When these symptoms appear, its time to see a doctor.

Myth: You cant reduce your risk of getting Alzheimers disease or other kinds of dementiayou either get it or you dont.

Fact: Adopting healthy habits can lower your risk of developing dementia, or at least delay the onset. Healthy body, healthy mind, says Dr. Caselli. What we can control, we should control. Though he adds that even a lifetime of healthy habits is no guarantee of protection.

Myth: Since there is no cure, theres no point in getting a diagnosis.

Myth: A diagnosis of Alzheimers or another form of dementia means life as you know it will soon end.

Myth: Coping with a family member with Alzheimers is overwhelmingly difficult.

Behavior Mood Personality & Psychiatric Symptoms

Although cognitive deficits have traditionally been emphasized, a wide spectrum of neuropsychiatric symptoms occur throughout the course of AD these symptoms represent a major source of disease morbidity. Neuropsychiatric disturbances have been associated with more rapid cognitive decline, increased caregiver burden , rises in patient care costs, greater medication use and adverse side effects, and wide-ranging institutional staffing needs given the higher numbers of earlier institutionalization of AD patients . Overall prevalence rates of neuropsychiatric symptoms in AD range between 60 and 80%, and a lifetime risk of 90% or greater .

Common symptoms include mood disturbances, delusions, hallucinations, vegetative symptoms and aberrant motor disturbance. Delusions tend to be most common in the middle stage of the disease and center around themes of theft as a consequence of deficient memory. Visual hallucinations are a more common occurrence in PCA and they are usually well-formed, recurrent, spontaneous and nonfleeting , much like those in LBD. Patients with AD also develop depression at a relatively high rate, and it is typically marked by anhedonia and dysphoria . Many of these symptoms are episodic, and in some cases, can precede the diagnosis of AD .

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The Basics Of Alzheimers Disease

Scientists are conducting studies to learn more about plaques, tangles, and other biological features of Alzheimers disease. Advances in brain imaging techniques allow researchers to see the development and spread of abnormal amyloid and tau proteins in the living brain, as well as changes in brain structure and function. Scientists are also exploring the very earliest steps in the disease process by studying changes in the brain and body fluids that can be detected years before Alzheimers symptoms appear. Findings from these studies will help in understanding the causes of Alzheimers and make diagnosis easier.

One of the great mysteries of Alzheimers disease is why it largely affects older adults. Research on normal brain aging is exploring this question. For example, scientists are learning how age-related changes in the brain may harm neurons and affect other types of brain cells to contribute to Alzheimers damage. These age-related changes include atrophy of certain parts of the brain, inflammation, blood vessel damage, production of unstable molecules called free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction .

Task Force Says Ohio Lacks Focused Approach Into Researching Alzheimers And Other Dementias

What’s the difference between forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s and other dementias?

By Nikki | on November 30, 2021

COLUMBUS A panel of experts from around Ohio has determined that the state lacks a coordinated approach to the growing public health crisis of Alzheimers disease and other dementias.

Now advocates around the state are waiting to find out what the recommendations are to fix it.

Ohios Alzheimers Disease and Related Dementias Task Force is formulating steps the state should take to create Ohios first state Alzheimers Plan. But before the group finalizes its recommendations, it wants to hear from families impacted by the fatal brain disease.

On December 1 and 2, the Task Force will hold the first of a series of public listening sessions around the state to hear from Ohioans living with Alzheimers and other dementias, their caregivers and those working in related fields.

The Dec. 1 session will be from 2-4 p.m. at the Conference Center at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, 11890 Fairhill Road, Cleveland.

The Dec. 2 session will be from 10 a.m.-noon at the NEW Center at Northeast Ohio Medical University , 2411 State Route 44, Rootstown.

The Task Force is evaluating seven core areas from early detection and intervention to long-term services and support. With one out of every nine Ohioans aged 65 and older impacted by Alzheimers disease and other dementias, according to the Task Forces preliminary findings summary, the end result should have a wide impact.

Some of the challenges include:

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Dementia With Lewy Bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies, also known as Lewy body dementia, is caused by protein deposits in nerve cells. This interrupts chemical messages in the brain and causes memory loss and disorientation.

People with this type of dementia also experience visual hallucinations and have trouble falling asleep at night or fall asleep unexpectedly during the day. They also might faint or become lost or disoriented.

Dementia with Lewy bodies shares many symptoms with Parkinson and Alzheimer diseases. For example, many people develop trembling in their hands, have trouble walking, and feel weak.

Icipating In Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical Trials

Everybody those with Alzheimers disease or MCI as well as healthy volunteers with or without a family history of Alzheimers may be able to take part in clinical trials and studies. Participants in Alzheimers clinical research help scientists learn how the brain changes in healthy aging and in Alzheimers. Currently, at least 270,000 volunteers are needed to participate in more than 250 active clinical trials and studies that are testing ways to understand, diagnose, treat, and prevent Alzheimers disease.

Volunteering for a clinical trial is one way to help in the fight against Alzheimers. Studies need participants of different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that results are meaningful for many people.

NIA leads the federal governments research efforts on Alzheimers. NIA-supported Alzheimers Disease Research Centers throughout the U.S. conduct a wide range of research, including studies of the causes, diagnosis, and management of the disease. NIA also sponsors the Alzheimers Clinical Trials Consortium, which is designed to accelerate and expand studies and therapies in Alzheimers and related dementias.

To learn more about Alzheimers clinical trials and studies:

  • Talk to your health care provider about local studies that may be right for you.

Watch videos of participants in Alzheimers disease clinical trials talking about their experiences.

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Attention & Executive Functions

The degree to which executive functions are disrupted in most cases of AD remains somewhat equivocal. Some studies suggest that in the typical AD dementia syndrome, executive functions are relatively preserved during the early stages of the disease , whereas others suggest that this domain is impaired to the same extent or more than other cognitive domains . Clearly, as the disease progresses, marked executive dysfunction becomes apparent, with changes in abstract reasoning, concentration, calculations and sustained visual attention being most common. In more severe cases, poor judgment and planning, difficulty completing a task and alterations in personality become especially pronounced.

Typically, comparisons of patients with AD versus VaD on measures of simple attention fail to reveal group differences . However, with increased task complexity, and more demands placed on sustained attention or mental set, vigilance and working memory, patients with VaD demonstrate greater deficits than AD patients . Most studies of letter fluency show no difference or a slight superiority by patients with AD versus VaD .

Talking With Your Health Care Provider

Alzheimerâs Disease 2020 Facts and Statistics

Aging is a difficult process for many people, and talking to your health care provider about your concerns can be very beneficial. They can provide you with information and resources to help ease your concerns or improve your quality of life if you have any of these conditions.

There are simple screening tests that health care professionals can perform during routine medical visits, Ory said. Knowing the signs and symptomatology of dementia is important as there are medications that can reduce your symptomatology, and, along with being more active and engaging in other healthy lifestyles, can improve your quality of life.

Although there are no medications or treatment that can cure dementia or Alzheimers, medications and a healthy lifestyle will help you process your condition as well as possible. Ask your physician about safety and limitations. There is nothing shameful about having dementia.

Before people talked about dementia in medical terms, theyd say that the patient was crazy or senile, Ory said. People dont use those terms now because they recognize its a medical condition and not about personality or willpower. Alzheimers and dementia are far too common and are not something we can ignore.

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