Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, which is it? And, how can you tell the difference. It’s important to know the difference as it can affect treatments.
These terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are easy to mix up and there’s much confusion on which is which.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for up to 80 percent of all cases. The second most common form is vascular dementia, which is caused by high blood pressure.
Other types of dementia include alcohol-related dementia, Parkinson’s dementia and frontotemporal dementia.
The correct drugs depend on an accurate diagnosis. For example, an Alzheimer’s patient would be given a memory enhancing drug — whereas a dementia patient might be given an anti-depressant. A correct diagnosis means the right medicines, remedies and support.
In the simplest terms, this disease is a non-reversible decline in mental function.
It is a catchall phrase that encompasses several disorders that cause chronic memory loss, personality changes or impaired reasoning,
Diagnosis includes two or three cognitive areas in decline.
These include disorientation, disorganization, language impairment and memory loss. To make that diagnosis, a doctor or neurologist typically administers several mental-skill challenges.
In the Hopkins verbal learning test, the patient is asked to memorize – then recall a list of 12 words. Another test — also used to evaluate driving skills — asks the patient to draw lines to connect a series of numbers and letters in a complicated sequence.
It is a specific disease that slowly and irreversibly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually results in death. Despite billions of dollars spent on research, there is still no drug that can effectively reverse, or even slow the disease.
Also, there’s no definitive test as doctors mostly rely on observation.
For decades, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease has been a guessing game based on looking at a person’s symptoms. A firm diagnosis was not possible until an autopsy was performed.
But that so-called guessing game, which is still used today in diagnosing the disease, is accurate between 85 and 90 percent of the time. The new PET scan can get you to 95 percent accuracy, but it’s usually recommended only as a way to identify Alzheimer’s in patients who have atypical symptoms.