When you struggle to think of a word or you forget something, you might worry about Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Some forgetfulness is a normal part of the aging process. However, when memory issues start interfering with daily activities for you or a loved one, it is a cause for concern.
What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?
Although you might hear people use Alzheimer’s and dementia to describe the same thing, they’re different.
Dementia describes symptoms that affect memory, communication and daily activities. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia. Alzheimer’s gets worse over time, and the disease affects the parts of the brain that control thought processes, language and memory.
The risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia is higher for people older than 65, but people of all ages can develop either issue.
What are the other types of dementia?
Dementia is actually a syndrome, and its symptoms are a part of various brain diseases. A few of the most common types of dementia, besides Alzheimer’s, include the following:
- Vascular dementia is a result of a stroke when the brain has been affected by the trauma. Memory problems, confusion and communication issues are typical.
- Dementia with Lewy bodies involves deposits of protein that form in the brain. Symptoms include memory problems, trouble concentrating, daytime sleepiness and difficulty moving.
- Parkinson’s disease with dementia combines both dementia and Parkinson’s disease. About half of the people with Parkinson’s also get dementia. This type of dementia is similar to dementia with Lewy bodies.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes dementia. Additionally, the type of dementia a person has determines the treatment they’ll receive.
Early signs of dementia
Early signs of dementia can be vague and subtle at first. Symptoms of dementia include trouble recalling recent events, confusion, difficulty concentrating, personality changes, withdrawal from family and friends and inability to do common daily tasks.
It’s easy to brush off early signs as typical aging issues. But, if several symptoms occur together, it’s best to see your primary care provider right away.
Back to Alzheimer’s, what exactly is it?
Alzheimer’s disease is a specific brain disease that slowly causes issues with thinking and memory. It causes brain cells and connections between brain cells to die.
People with Alzheimer’s develop protein deposits in the brain that doctors call plagues and tangles. Plagues block neuron communication, and tangles twist together and kill brain cells.
Again, most people who get Alzheimer’s are older than 65, but it can affect younger people, too. Like other types of dementia, doctors don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s and there is no cure.
Early signs of Alzheimer’s
The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is memory loss that begins to affect daily activities. People might start asking the same question repeatedly.
Another early symptom involves struggling to solve problems and make plans. Concentration gets difficult, and people take longer to do simple tasks. Familiar tasks might get hard, too.
Confusion will also often set in. An Alzheimer’s patient may have trouble tracking seasons and the passage of time. Conversations can get strained as it gets hard to think of words or keep hold of a thought. It’s also typical for an Alzheimer’s patient to misplace things.
Seeing your primary care provider is a good place to start to find out if your memory issues are normal or are a symptom of something more serious.
And with your loved ones, don’t ignore memory issues or changes in personality and assume they’re just signs of aging. Learn more about the neurology services we offer at Bon Secours.