Alzheimer's vs Dementia


Alzheimer's disease (AD), also known as Alzheimer disease, Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer Type (SDAT) or simply Alzheimer's, is a very specific and the most common form of dementia. Dementia can be caused by several other factors, many of which can be controlled, at times even reversed.

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Symptoms Memory loss; poor functioning; disorientation; poor judgment. Memory loss, difficulty performing routine tasks, difficulty communicating, forgetting language and family, personality changes, impaired motor functions, disorientation, changes in emotions, inappropriate behavior
Causes Genetic, among others Aging, brain damage or wasting due to injury, infection, illness, aging or the presence of abnormal protein structures; genetic factors; alcohol or drug abuse; metabolic changes or poor nutrition; medications; poisoning
Relation between both Alzheimer's is a type of dementia. But it is the most commonly found type. Dementia is a brain related disorder caused by other diseases.
Duration Avg of 8 - 20 years Permanent damage but in stages
Agewise Occurance Usually after 65 years of age, but can occur as early as 30s; risk doubles every 5.5 years. After 60 years.

Contents: Alzheimer's vs Dementia

edit What is Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain process that gradually leads to dementia or senility. It is also known as senile dementia. In an Alzheimer's patient, the brain develops plaques and tangles, and loses neurons. Tangles consist of a protein called tau and plaques are a result of another protein—amyloid beta—folding upon itself and forming long fibers that accumulate. Many scientists believe that an increase in the production or accumulation of beta–amyloid protein in the brain leads to nerve cell death and is largely responsible for the development of Alzheimer's disease.

The brain is disrupted from its normal function; mental abilities become impaired, and the patient's memory, ability to think clearly and at times even language is impaired. The disease produces physical change in the brain. There is shrinking in some areas and widening in the others. When the brain shrinks or widens, connections inside the brain are broken, causing disruption of the electrical signals in the brain.

edit What is Dementia?

In Latin 'dementia' means irrationality. Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not a specific disease as such, but a progressive brain dysfunction with several symptoms which results in limitation in performance of daily activities, and in most cases leads to the long term need for care. There is a significant loss of intellectual abilities such as memory and reasoning, which can interfere with social or occupational functioning.

Dementia is not temporary confusion or forgetfulness that might result from a self-limited infection, underlying illness, or side effects of medication. Dementia typically worsens with time. Many different diseases can cause dementia, but Alzheimer's disease is by far the most common cause for dementia in most countries in the world.

edit Occurence

The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is aging. The likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease doubles every 5.5 years from 65 to 85 years of age. On an average, this disease lasts 8 -12 years, and while the chance of acquiring it increases with age (usually 65+), Alzheimer's in a more rapidly progressing form can also affect adults in their late 30s and early 40s. This disease is thought to be hereditary in most cases, but not necessarily passed on to the next generation.

Studies have found that Alzheimer's disease occurs more often among people who suffered significant traumatic head injuries earlier in life, particularly among those with the apoE 4 gene. (The apoE (apolipoprotein E) gene has three different forms (alleles) –– apoE2, apoE3, and apoE4. The apoE4 form of the gene has been associated with increased risk of Alzheimer's disease in most populations studied.)

In addition, studies have demonstrated that people with limited formal education – usually less than eight years – are at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease. It is not known whether this reflects a decreased "cognitive reserve" or other factors associated with a lower educational level.

Dementia increases with advancing age. Dementia predominantly occurs in the second half of life, usually after 65. Some experts think it is the 'price society has to pay' for our higher life expectancy and therefore the term 'dementia' activates similar fears and repression mechanisms as 'cancer' or 'AIDS'. The frequency of dementia increases with increase in age from less than 2 % for the 65-69-year-olds, to 5 % for the 75-79 year-olds and to more than 20 % for the 85-89 year-olds. Every third person over 90 years of age suffers from moderate or severe dementia

edit Causes

The "amyloid cascade hypothesis" is the most widely discussed and researched hypothesis regarding the cause of Alzheimer's. The strongest data supporting the amyloid cascade hypothesis comes from the study of early–onset inherited (genetic) Alzheimer's disease. Mutations associated with Alzheimer's disease have been found in about half of the patients with early–onset disease. In all of these patients, the mutation leads to excess production in the brain of a specific form of a small protein fragment called ABeta (Aβ). Many scientists believe that in the majority of sporadic (i.e. non–inherited) cases of Alzheimer's, there is too little removal of the Aβ protein rather than too much production. Much of the research in finding ways to prevent or slow down Alzheimer's disease has focused on ways to decrease the amount of Aβ in the brain.

A smaller camp in Alzheimer's research focuses on tau, the protein that forms tangles in the brain. Tangles are formed in all brains as they age, not just patients who get Alzheimer's. From The Alzheimer's Enigma, a recently published article in Mosaic:

The spread of tangles [the protein tau] in the brain is much more closely related than plaques [the protein amyloid beta] to the progress of dementia in Alzheimer’s disease. When it was discovered that tau could cause damage, the amyloid hypothesis was updated to accommodate the idea that it might be tau, not amyloid beta, that actually kills nerve cells and causes dementia. “You could call the APP [amyloid] dysfunction the initiator of the whole thing but the tau dysfunction is the executioner,” says Goedert. There are some who go further, however, saying that tau is the real driving force behind Alzheimer’s disease. According to them, the reason the tau gene has not been linked to the disease is that tangles are a natural phenomenon of ageing in the brain. For most of us, this only becomes a problem in old age when the tangles have blocked lots of pathways, similar to the way our muscles become weak in old age. In Alzheimer’s disease, some other factor – maybe faulty or excessive amyloid beta – causes problems to occur earlier and progress faster.

In rare cases, the disease is caused by mutations (genetic changes) in the family. In these cases, symptoms usually occur before the age of 60 and progress rapidly. All currently known mutations result in an overproduction of a protein which destroys the nerve cells. In most cases the exact cause remains largely unexplained; interaction of several factors probably leads to the onset. Everybody is at risk of developing this disease. Several genetic factors are known to increase the risk without being the cause themselves. These include a (normal) variant of the gene apolipoprotein E which encourages the deposition of the harmful protein.

There are some conditions of dementia which only mimic serious disorders and are actually reversible. These are called "pseudodementias," and are treatable. Examples of conditions causing reversible symptoms of dementia are:

Certain conditions cause irreversible cognitive impairment. These include:

edit Symptoms

edit Alzheimer's Disease

The onset of Alzheimer's is usually gradual, and the disease progresses slowly. Memory problems that are dismissed as "a normal part of aging" are in retrospect noted by the family to be the first stages of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer’s Disease progresses in three stages, namely Early stage, Middle stage and Late stage.

edit Early Stage Symptoms

edit Middle Stage Symptoms

edit Late Stage Symptoms

Death can then follow, perhaps from pneumonia or some other problem that occurs in severely deteriorated states of health. Those who develop the disorder later in life more often die from other illnesses (such as heart disease) rather than as a consequence of Alzheimer's disease.

edit Dementia Symptoms

Some of the common symptoms in Dementia are:

Dementia-like symptoms can also develop as a result of other lifestyle condition, such as alcohol or substance abuse, vitamin deficiency and certain infectious diseases. Although Alzheimer's Disease accounts for nearly 60 percent of all dementia cases; all cases of dementia are not Alzheimer’s.

edit Treatment

edit Alzheimer's treatment

The best way to treat Alzheimer's is to take active steps to not develop it. No cure exists for Alzheimer's disease today, although new advances in medicine show some promise in treatment such as reversible cholinesterase inhibitors, which improve the patient's function level. Treatment today focuses on contributing problems -- creating a consistency in the daily routine and living environment. This consistency, combining emotional support with logistic support, is best implemented by primary care givers. Alzheimer's patients will need assistance in maintaining the highest level of functioning in day-to-day living routines. Safety concerns are a priority -- some patients are not steady on their feet; they may benefit from the assistance of a walker or having the home or living quarters equipped with handrails. Studies show that routine visits to an adult day care center are beneficial to the patient.

edit Alzheimer's Drugs

The pharmaceutical industry has tried various drugs over the last 15 years to treat or slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease. These drugs have focused on beta-amyloid protein. But these drugs have failed to be effective. Some have been withdrawn because their side-effects were too detrimental, others did not show enough of an effect slowing patients’ mental decline. Solanezumab is one of the most recent drugs undergoing testing; it has shown some promise in early stages when the severity of the disease is mild. But the drug needs further testing.

There is one drug that approaches Alzheimer's treatment by dissolving the tau protein instead of focusing on amyloid beta. This drug — called LMTX and manufactured by TauRx Therapeutics — showed promise in a 2008 trial of 321 patients and is currently under another phase of testing, results for which will be reported in 2015. However, critics and skeptics have asked for results from the 2008 study to be published so they can be peer-reviewed by the scientific community. Until that happens, we only have the manufacturer's word that the drug works.[1]

edit Treatment for Dementia

There are a number of favorable conditions which can ease the situation of a dementia patient. In the early stage, training of thinking and memory functions should only be carried out carefully, else there is the danger that the patient is always reminded of his/her diminishing mental abilities. As with numerous other diseases, there is no cure for the illness but medication can improve disease symptoms and can slow down the progression which can be considered a positive response to treatment.

The more recent antidementia agents belong to the so-called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors Reminyl (galantamine), Exelon (rivastigmine) and Aricept (donepezil). Research suggests that the neurotransmitter acetylcholine is reduced in the brain of dementia patients; acetylcholinesterase inhibitors prevent acetylcholine being eliminated too quickly by a substance responsible for its breakdown. With these drugs the deterioration of the symptoms can be delayed. Psychotropic drugs can be used as a supportive therapy in the treatment of behavioural problems in dementia. There is often criticism particularly of these agents that they are only used to quieten patients down so that they only behave in an apathetic manner and cannot take part in daily events.

Apart from treating the specific symptoms of Alzheimer' or dementia, it is important to observe the general state of health because a good general condition improves the feeling of well-being.

edit Prevention

According to the NIH, Alzheimer's disease has no cure as of today - Alzheimer's has without exception resulted in a slow, suffering death. And while there is no evidence that points to an absolute prevention of the disease, doctors do believe that the right nutritional and lifestyle choices, including nurturing brain health may delay, slow or possibly even prevent Alzheimer's. The following steps are the best regimen one can follow to prevent Alzheimer's and dementia in general:

Nutrition: Including a significant amount of fish, nuts, avocados, foods rich in omega 3 in your regular diet. Minimizing on processed food, food high in sugar or made with refined or bleached flour.

Exercise: Maintaining an active lifestyle and exercising for at least 3-4 hours a week, preferably outdoors. Even going for a walk everyday makes a difference.

Brain health: Staying mentally active; doing math or calculations in the head instead of using calculators, solving puzzles and brain-teasers, reading, listening to music. There are, however, no studies showing a direct co-relation between keeping the brain active and prevention of Alzheimer's or dementia.

Reading and formal education: Although it is difficult to make an assertive claim, studies with large samples have shown Alzheimer's prevailed more in people with fewer than eight years of formal education.

edit References

Comments: Alzheimer's vs Dementia

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April 20, 2014, 4:55am

My Mother started exhibiting signs of dementia at the age of 75. She is now 89 and we were forced to enter her into a nursing home about 1 month ago. I was her caregiver for all those years. I've never seen such a slow death. She suffers all the symptoms of the late stages of the disease. She is still mobile (shuffles). My heart breaks every time I visit her. It is so scary to think that I might get this. I've read all the info I can but that doesn't stop the disease. My Father was a minister and when he died of heart failure 30 yrs ago, my Mother, who had been studying for the ministry, was voted in by the church and she was still ministering when this started happening at age 75. It was all down hill from there. Just little bits of her started disappearing. This is a HORRENDUS disease. I just wish it was all over now and she was at rest. She would absolutely hate what she has become. My heart goes out to anyone that has to watch this disease take over someone's body.

— 74.✗.✗.216

February 27, 2013, 5:01pm

I am very sorry for your illness, or anyone's illness for that matter. I do not however agree with taking ones life. God gives life and only He has the right to end it. You must endeavor to accept what comes to you. After all He did the worst thing of all for us. Let Himself be crucified for all of us and he was without guilt. My mom has late stage AD and I know how I feel about her and wish her suffering to be over. There is a good reason for all and only God knows why. He does make goodness come out of the bad. Never feel like your suffering is in vain and please do not ever contemplate taking your precious life that was given to youl. Leave it in God's hands and He will guide and be your strengh, even though you may have none of your own. My prayers are with you and for you.

— 71.✗.✗.166

November 16, 2012, 10:15pm

I watched my uncle die not long ago of Creutzfeldt-Jacob, and my MIL was just diagnosed with AD. I have told my spouse that if I get it, I will kill myself way before it gets to that stage...and I expect him to help. I would of course do the same for him.

— 74.✗.✗.151

September 30, 2012, 1:10am

If the diagnosis is sure, assisted suicide should be available as an option.

— 99.✗.✗.165

August 31, 2012, 6:01pm

Both my husbands mother and my mother had alzhiemers. To say is scares me to death that it may be in my future is an understatement! I would rather have ANY other form of illness than this. It takes away your dignity and is a very cruel way to have to live your life both for yourself and your loved ones. I pray they find a cure

— 184.✗.✗.12

July 12, 2012, 5:53am

I recently found out my grandfather has dementia and it's substantially worsening. It's tearing my grandmother and my mother apart. It's so terrible to watch this happen to such an amazing and important person in my life. I think he knows something is wrong but doesn't understand it.

— 108.✗.✗.127

June 7, 2012, 5:07pm

I feel bad for people who have this

— 98.✗.✗.201
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