Family Medicine | Geriatric Medicine Questions Dementia

How is dementia different from Alzheimer's?

I have both dementia and Alzheimer's in my family tree. What is the difference between the two? My father had it and he had to see a psychiatrist for his condition. He was aware of it until the later stages.

5 Answers

Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia. There are many types including vascular (multiple strokes ),lewy body, Parkinson's - and others. A physician should start the evaluation by taking a full history, especially looking at meds that can cause confusion . Depression should also be ruled out. Brain imaging like an MRI should be done as well. Labs to rule out any metabolic or nutritional abnormalities should also be done. Consideration should be given to referring to a neuropsychologist, as treatment for each type of dementia is often different, especially now with new treatments for AD. Theresa M. Redling DO, FACP Chief, Geriatric Health Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center Director, Maida Geriatric Institute Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School
Dementia is a very general term for a wide range of conditions that lead to impairments in memory, learning, and ability to care for self. Alzheimers is just one type of dementia. Others include Parkinsons disease, frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body dementia, etc.
Alzheimer’s disease, or Alzheimer’s dementia, is the most common type of dementia, however, there are other types of dementia like vascular dementia. Your father likely had one of the other types if he had insight/awareness, as in Alzheimer’s dementia patients often do not have insight into their condition.
Dementia is a syndrome of declining cognitive functions, such as memory, language, performing tasks, decision making, etc. There are many causes of dementia, the most common of which is Alzheimer's disease, which has a classic presentation and brain changes that differ from other causes. An analogy would be arthritis, a syndrome involving pain and inflammation of the joints. There are multiple causes of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, et. al.
Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia, the most common form. There are other types of dementia: vascular, mixed, Lewy Body. All are progressive neurodegenerative diseases with no effective treatment.