Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia What Are the Differences?

By Pasteur Medical Centers

Many people use the terms Alzheimer’s and dementia interchangeably, but they are different things. While dementia is a general term for a syndrome, Alzheimer’s is a specific brain disease.

Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, behavior and emotion. It’s a decline in mental function that is usually severe, disruptive and irreversible due to abnormal brain changes. Signs include repetitive questioning, poor personal care and trouble with decision-making. As the disease advances, symptoms get worse and include disorientation, confusion and behavior changes. Eventually, people with dementia develop problems with speaking, swallowing and walking.

Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is a specific brain disease that progressively destroys memory and thinking skills. It gradually takes away the ability to carry out even simple tasks. It is also the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all dementia cases in the US. Late-stage signs may include being unable to move around without assistance, being unable to speak, having difficulty swallowing, losing weight and experiencing incontinence.

How do doctors diagnose dementia and Alzheimer’s? Although there is no one specific test to diagnose dementia, doctors can determine that a person has it with a degree of certainty. Tools may include a neurological exam, mental status test, brain scans to identify strokes and tumors, a psychiatric evaluation and blood tests, in addition to a physical exam.

As for Alzheimer’s, doctors may order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) to rule out other conditions. The patient’s medical history, mental status tests, physical and neurological exams are other important diagnostic tools.

The first step to providing the right treatment to dementia and Alzheimer’s patients is having the right diagnosis. For more information visit www.alz.org.

Join us on Saturday, November 19 at Florida International University’s Riccardo Silva Stadium for Walk to End Alzheimer’s Miami presented by Wellmax Medical Centers and Pasteur Medical Centers. Register today at alz.org/Miami

Pasteur Medical Centers

As one of the largest medical providers in South Florida, Pasteur is a leader and innovator of healthcare services. It provides comprehensive and compassion-driven medical services through a network of top healthcare professionals dedicated to enhancing the well-being of patients.

Pasteur currently has 11 medical facilities serving Miami-Dade and South Broward.

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