Whats The Difference Between Alzheimers And Dementia
Dementia isnt a disease, but a description of symptoms including loss of memory, ability to focus and reason, and other mental issues that can interfere with daily life. Alzheimers disease, characterized by plaques that kill off brain cells, is considered the most common cause of dementia, but it isnt fully understood. A study at Northwestern University in Chicago found that some people in their 90s, with widespread Alzheimers brain plaques, presented no symptoms and continued to have superior memory throughout their lives.
Strokes, Parkinsons disease, and other conditions can also damage brain cells and produce dementia symptoms, but sometimes there is simply no known cause. The 90+ Study, which began in 2003 and has looked at more than 1,600 people in their 90s, has found that half of those with dementia have no known physical manifestations in their brains to explain the condition.
Did You Know?
Dementia isnt a disease, but a description of symptoms, including memory loss.
Causes Of Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia.
Alzheimers disease is thought to be caused by the abnormal build-up of 2 proteins called amyloid and tau.
Deposits of amyloid, called plaques, build up around brain cells. Deposits of tau form tangles within brain cells.
Researchers do not fully understand how amyloid and tau are involved in the loss of brain cells, but research into this is continuing.
As brain cells become affected in Alzheimers, theres also a decrease in chemical messengers involved in sending messages, or signals, between brain cells.
Levels of 1 neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, are particularly low in the brains of people with Alzheimers disease.
Medicines like donepezil increase levels of acetylcholine, and improve brain function and symptoms.
These treatments are not a cure for Alzheimers disease, but they do help improve symptoms.
Read more about treatments for dementia.
The symptoms that people develop depend on the areas of the brain that have been damaged by the disease.
The hippocampus is often affected early on in Alzheimers disease. This area of the brain is responsible for laying down new memories. Thats why memory problems are one of the earliest symptoms in Alzheimers.
Unusual forms of Alzheimers disease can start with problems with vision or with language.
Read more about Alzheimers disease.
Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease
If you have never clearly understood the reversible dementia causes and symptoms, you came to the right place. In short, in this article, we discuss the most common ones that you need to be aware of.
One of the most disheartening dementia facts is that it has no cure.
This implies that if a person gets a positive dementia diagnosis, they will have to live with it until their last day.
This said, it is important to note that some conditions exhibit dementia-like symptoms, which can make one confuse other diseases or infections for dementia.
These are often known as reversible dementia causes and some of them include:
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Causes Of Potentially Reversible Dementia Symptoms
Worried that a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease? While you may be right, you should be sure to have a physician conduct a thorough evaluation to be certain. Some illnesses and conditions that look and act like Alzheimer’s are reversible with appropriate treatment.
Here are 10 potentially reversible causes of dementia symptoms.
Medication Adverse Effects And Interactions
Cognitive impairment resulting from prescribed medications is more likely to occur in older than younger adults because theyre already vulnerable to dementia caused by neurodegeneration. Adding a moderately neurotoxic medication might trigger delirium or memory issues.
To definitively identify a medication thats causing dementia symptoms, the drug causing impairment would have to have been administered before confusion onset and return to normal cognitive baseline would have to occur when the medication is stopped. However, these conditions rarely are met because many older adults take multiple medications. Medicines that can potentiate delirium in adults older than 65 years are found in the American Geriatric Society 2019 Beers Criteria®. These medicationsincluding those with strong anticholinergic properties, conventional and atypical antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, and nonbenzodiazepine and benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnoticsshould be avoided.
Medications causing dementia-like symptoms should be discontinued, as ordered by the provider, while still treating the underlying medical condition. You can educate patients about the risks of taking multiple drugs, work with them to ensure theyre taking only essential medications, and recommend alternative medications when necessary. Always ask patients if theyre taking any over-the-counter medicines, supplements, or natural products, which may adversely interact with prescribed medications.
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Can You Prevent Alzheimers Disease
There is no sure way to prevent Alzheimers disease. However, you can reduce the risk of Alzheimers disease by caring for your health:
- your heart whats good for your heart is good for your brain so stick to a healthy diet and dont smoke
- your body regular physical activity increases blood flow to the brain so maintain an active lifestyle
- your mind an active mind helps build brain cells and strengthens their connections so socialise, do things such as puzzles and crosswords, and learn new things, such as a language
Learn more about the risk factors associated with Alzheimers and other types of dementia, and what you can do to reduce your risk:
Everything You Need Know About Dementia
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 10 million new cases of dementia are reported each year. As it appears in many forms, it also affects each individual differently.
Dementia is a term generally used to describe memory loss, reasoning, judgment, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities. It can affect the person’s functional abilities to focus, pay attention, use language, and visualize. Some dementia symptoms are mild that the person is still more than capable of living independently. In contrast, other symptoms are severe that the person needs to depend on others for specialized care.
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How Reversible Are Reversible Dementias
European Neurological Review,
Reversible dementias comprise different groups of disorders of variable aetiologies, such as structural brain lesions or metabolic, infectious, toxic, autoimmune, paraneoplastic and psychiatric disorders. When patients present with cognitive symptoms, especially in the younger age groups, the first thought of the attending neurologist should be to try to identify an underlying treatable cause. The incidence of degenerative dementia rises with older age and its symptoms progressively become more evident and typical in such cases, a differential diagnosis is limited and the chance of uncovering a treatable disorder is minimal. However, although uncommon, treatable dementias or dementia-like symptoms do exist. Future studies with better design and methodology, as well as longer observation periods and larger patient populations, are needed to clarify the controversial issues concerning the epidemiology and accurate diagnosis of, and treatment possibilities for, reversible dementias.
Reversible dementia, classification, differential diagnosis, treatment, review
Traditional and New Approach to Reversibility
Traditional Causes of Reversible Dementias
Structural Brain Lesions
New Causes of Reversible Dementias
Low Levels Of Thyroid Hormones
Thyroid disorders can also make individuals experience symptoms that might be mistaken for dementia.
Problematic cognitive symptoms can crop up because of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Should a person experience any of the above symptoms, it is vital to see a specialist right away.
With PROPER treatment, all the symptoms may disappear after a while.
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Wernicke’s Encephalopathy And Korsakoff’s Syndrome
A deficiency in thiamine is often, but not always, caused by alcohol abuse and can lead to Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s syndrome. Wernicke’s encephalopathy is an acute condition of confusion, abnormal vision and eye movements, and problems with balance and body control. This condition is sometimes reversible with emergency treatment at the hospital.
Korsakoff’s syndrome is typically a long-term condition that sometimes follows an incident of Wernicke’s encephalopathy. It more closely resembles dementia’s symptoms and includes confusion, memory loss, hallucinations, and confabulation .
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 25% of people with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome will fully recover.
Can Low Sodium Levels Cause Permanent Brain Damage
hyponatremiabrainpermanenthyponatremia canirreversible brain damage
In acute hyponatremia, sodium levels drop rapidly resulting in potentially dangerous effects, such as rapid brain swelling, which can result in a coma and death. Premenopausal women appear to be at the greatest risk of hyponatremia-related brain damage.
One may also ask, can low sodium cause dementia? In sum, hyponatremia increases the risk of dementia, including both AD and non-AD dementia. Severe hyponatremia carries a much higher risk of dementia. Baseline or incident stroke can modify the relationship between hyponatremia and dementia.
Likewise, can low sodium cause altered mental status?
Symptoms range from mild anorexia, headache, and muscle cramps, to significant alteration in mental status including confusion, obtundation, coma, or status epilepticus. Hyponatremia is often seen in association with pulmonary/mediastinal disease or CNS disorders. Hyponatremia is associated with numerous medications.
What happens when sodium levels are low?
Hyponatremia occurs when sodium levels in the blood are too low. Symptoms include lethargy, confusion, and fatigue. It can result from underlying conditions, such as kidney failure, or other factors, such as drinking too much water or taking certain medications.
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Carefully Reviewing A Persons Medical History
Doctors in charge may ask whether there has been dementia in a family and how the symptoms began to manifest.
The professionals may also ask questions about the medications that a person is taking which might cause the symptoms or make them worse.
Doctors can also inquire about changes in personality or behavior.
Other Treatment And Support
Supporting a person with vascular dementia to live well includes treatment for symptoms, support to cope with lost abilities, and help to keep up enjoyable activities. For someone who has had a stroke or has physical difficulties, treatment will also include rehabilitation.
The drugs that are routinely prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease do not have benefits for vascular dementia, and are not recommended for it. These drugs may, however, be prescribed to treat mixed dementia .
If someone is depressed or anxious, talking therapies or drug treatments may also be tried. Counselling may also help the person adjust to the diagnosis.
Talking therapies for people with dementia
Talking therapies give people the chance to speak in confidence to a trained professional about problems or issues that are causing them concern.
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What Is The Treatment For Symptoms And Complications Of Dementia
Some symptoms and complications of dementia can be relieved by medical treatment, even if no treatment exists for the underlying cause of the dementia.
- Behavioral disorders may improve with individualized therapy aimed at identifying and changing specific problem behaviors.
- Mood swings and emotional outbursts may be treated with mood-stabilizing drugs.
- Agitation and psychosis may be treated with antipsychotic medication or, in some cases, anticonvulsants.
- Seizures usually require anticonvulsant medication.
- Sleeplessness can be treated by changing certain habits and, in some cases, by taking medication.
- Bacterial infections require treatment with antibiotics.
- Dehydration and malnutrition may be treated with rehydration and supplements or with behavioral therapies.
- Aspiration, pressure sores, and injuries can be prevented with appropriate care.
Treating And Managing Dementia Symptoms
Dementia symptoms generally begin to appear later in life, after or around age 60, with the most common form being Alzheimer’s disease. Most forms of dementia are treatable, but not curable. For treatable, but degenerative forms of dementia, medication can help manage symptoms, although for most people, there are only modest benefits to treatment.
However, sometimes dementia symptoms may be caused by treatable conditions, and if the underlying conditions are treated, the patient’s mental functions can at least partially, if not completely, improve. It is estimated that about 20 percent of patients with dementia symptoms actually have a curable condition, thus it is important to rule these out in order to make a firm diagnosis of a degenerative type of dementia.
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Keep Challenging Your Brain
Keep in mind that the brain can produce new brain cells at any age. However, similar to muscle strengths, a person has to use it or end up losing it.
Habits and lifestyle have significant effects on the brain thus is it important to keep improving cognitive skills which will protect the grey matter and prevent memory loss.
The main difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that the former does not cause a disabling decline in intellectual abilities like abstract thinking, judgment, and language.
A person who experiences pervasive and severe memory loss that disrupts life should consult a doctor as they may be having the neurodegenerative disease or other conditions that can be mistaken for dementia.
Sometimes The Causes For Dementia Are Linked To Medication Side Effects And Underlying Conditions
We use the term “dementia” to describe a number of conditions that cause permanent thinking skills changes, such as memory loss and confusion. The most common kind of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterized by clumping proteins that get tangled in and around brain cells, eventually causing them to die. The second most common type of dementia is vascular dementia, caused by decreased blood flow to the brain from atherosclerosisthe accumulation of fatty deposits on artery walls.
Once dementia strikes, the damage is permanent, and we don’t have many treatment options. So, before a diagnosis is made, it’s crucial to rule out whether the causes for dementia are actually reversible conditions.
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Sleep Apnea And Related Deficits
Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and sleep apnea, are common as people age and may lead to reduced cognitive performance, mimicking signs of dementia. Lack of restful sleep can increase the risk of sleep-disordered breathing, decrease total sleep duration, and impair circadian cycles. A study by Hung and colleagues indicates that primary insomnia is associated with a two- to three-fold increased risk for developing dementia.
Sleep apnea is known to cause neuron hypoxia and increase the risk of vascular conditions, such as vascular dementia and stroke, which can increase the risk for dementia. Poor sleep quality and quantity can affect neuron health by interfering with the brains natural processes for clearing toxins, which can increase glial cell inflammation and oxidative neurotoxin accumulation. The result can be neuron damage, dementia pathology in the brain, and subsequent dementia-like symptoms.
To determine whether a patient with a sleep disturbance has dementia or depression, their sleep patterns should be assessed with a sleep study. The study will help determine if the patient has obstructive sleep apnea, but it wont be able to differentiate a sleep disturbance resulting from dementia or depression. These will require complex testing and may still be inconclusive.
Is Dementia Hereditary
A majority of dementia cases are not passed on to grandchildren or children. However, there may be a genetic link in some of the rare dementia types.
This usually happens when a person develops dementia at an earlier age say less than 60 years implying that there are greater chances of the illness being passed on.
Familial Alzheimers disease is one of the rare dementia types that can be passed from one generation to the next.
Other dementia forms that can be inherited include some type of Fronto Temporal Lobar Degeneration and Huntingtons disease.
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E Staging Of Dementia
Progressive dementias are generally staged according to the level of functional impairment, and the same categories may be used to describe the degree of severity of any dementia . The ability to perform a specific function depends on baseline skills, deficits, and the social environment, so the severity of illness should be assessed in the context of past functioning in several domains. Individuals with questionable impairment show borderline functioning in several areas but definite impairment in none. Such individuals are not considered demented, but they should be evaluated over time: some may progress to a dementing disorder, some may return to normal functioning, and others may remain in a questionable state. Individuals with mild impairment are likely to have difficulties with balancing a checkbook, preparing a complex meal, or managing a difficult medication schedule. Those with moderate impairment also have difficulties with simpler food preparation, household cleanup, and yard work and may require assistance with some aspects of self-care . Those whose dementia is severe require considerable assistance with personal care, including feeding, grooming, and toileting. In profound dementia, the patients may become largely oblivious to their surroundings and are almost totally dependent on caregivers. In the terminal phase, patients are generally bed bound, require constant care, and may be susceptible to accidents and infectious diseases, which often prove fatal.
Control Of Cardiovascular Disease
If the underlying cardiovascular diseases that have caused vascular dementia can be controlled, it may be possible to slow down the progression of the dementia. For example, after someone has had a stroke or TIA, treatment of high blood pressure can reduce the risk of further stroke and dementia. For stroke-related dementia in particular, with treatment there may be long periods when the symptoms don’t get significantly worse.
In most cases, a person with vascular dementia will already be on medications to treat the underlying diseases. These include tablets to reduce blood pressure, prevent blood clots and lower cholesterol. If the person has a diagnosed heart condition or diabetes they will also be taking medicines for these. It is important that the person continues to take any medications and attends regular check-ups as recommended by a doctor.
Someone with vascular dementia will also be advised to adopt a healthy lifestyle, particularly to take regular physical exercise and, if they are a smoker, to quit. They should try to eat a diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and oily fish but not too much fat or salt. Maintaining a healthy weight and keeping to recommended levels of alcohol will also help. The GP should be able to offer advice in all these areas.
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