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Living with Dementia

The difference between dementia, Alzheimer’s

  • - Dementia News
  • Jan 21, 2012
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  • Viewed: 1811
Tags: | alzheimers disease | dementia cases | dementia causes | loss of memory |

Is there a difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?
Dementia is a generalized term used to refer to brain-related loss of memory, communication and daily skills that hamper a person’s ability to live independently. As dementia progresses, the person’s self care habits decline and there are definite mood and personality changes. Loss of these skills becomes more pronounced as the dementia progresses. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases.

What causes dementia?
Dementia is caused by the destruction of brain cells.  Much is still unknown about how or why people develop dementia.

A head injury, a stroke, a brain tumor or a problem like Alzheimer’s disease can damage brain cells. Some people have a family history of dementia. You also are more likely to develop dementia if you abuse alcohol, use tobacco products, have elevated blood pressure and/or cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes or high estrogen levels. You can greatly lower your risks by changing your personal habits to avoid alcohol and tobacco and working with your primary care physician to be sure any chronic diseases you have are well managed.

What are some common symptoms of dementia?
The most common symptom is memory loss, and this contributes to other problems. People with dementia may ask the same question repeatedly. They may forget how to do very common tasks. For instance, they may cook a meal and leave it on the stove because they forgot they were cooking. They forget common words or use the wrong words. They get lost trying to find places they once were capable of finding. They misplace things frequently. They have poor judgment, become moody and demonstrate other personality changes, such as becoming suspicious or fearful of people familiar to them.

Symptoms of Dementia: The experience of everyone with dementia is different any number of symptoms are two completely identical. General health of a person and the social situation are all important factors determining the extent to which a person experiences symptoms of dementia.

Here are the most common symptoms of early dementia:
1. The loss of memory, decreased short-term memory is a common early symptom of dementia, a person experiencing dementia often forget the specifics and context of the situation.
2. Difficulty of implementing familiar tasks Daily-A person who tests difficult day, several days in functions, such as the laying on of clothes. They often forget to put in what order based on their clothes.
3. Disorientation in time and space, a person with dementia often overlap known places and time of day. A person with dementia may also confuse day and night.
4. Poor Judgment-A person with dementia may have problems solving problems day to day normally. For example, on a hot day, they can offset the amount of clothes they should, where and put too many layers.
5. The challenge to keep track of people with dementia often have trouble keeping up with conversations or for routine bills. You may have forgotten to pay your bills or to take their drugs.
6. Changes in personality, a person with dementia seems different from his ego often express depression, irritability and suspicion. These properties are very difficult to identify, without doubt.
7. The loss of the initiative, a person with dementia can be very passive and are growing very tired of things like household chores and social obligations.

What should I do if I think my family member has dementia?
It’s important to get a diagnosis because there are some medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms but are very treatable. Ask your family member if you can make an appointment with his/her primary care doctor. Volunteer to accompany the individual to the appointment. Give the primary care doctor an advance call and share your concerns. And offer your family member love and support through this difficult time.

Vascular dementia is caused when there is an interruption in the blood supply to the brain.

Like all organs, in order to work properly, the brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients, which is provided by your blood (vascular system). If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, brain cells begin to die, resulting in brain damage.

This interruption to blood supply can develop gradually over time if the vessels inside the brain narrow and harden. This narrowing and hardening of the blood vessels is usually caused when fatty deposits build up on the blood vessel walls, restricting the flow of blood. This is called atherosclerosis.

Known risk factors for atherosclerosis include:
drinking too much alcohol
lack of exercise
eating a high-fat diet

Atherosclerosis in the smaller blood vessels in the brain will also cause them to gradually clog up, depriving the brain of blood. This is known as small vessel disease.

The blood supply to the brain is interrupted rapidly during a stroke and this can also cause damage to the brain cells.

Not everyone who has had a stroke will go on to have vascular dementia. However, if you have had a stroke or have been diagnosed with small vessel disease, you may be at higher risk of developing vascular dementia.

Is dementia curable?
It depends on the cause. Dementias caused by conditions such as a medication reaction or infection can be reversed with treatment. But progressive dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, will continue to worsen over time. Still, early diagnosis is important because treatment can help delay symptoms and prevent other complications, such as strokes and blood clots that can develop from poorly managed medical conditions. It also gives the individual time to plan ahead while he/she can still make decisions.


(Dr. Gretchen Belzer-Curl is a board certified family medicine physician at Medcenter One Mandan Family Clinic North. A graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, Dr. Belzer-Curl specializes in women’s medicine, preventative health, abnormal PAPs and colposcopies.)




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