Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same. Dementia is an umbrella term for cognitive issues, whereas Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia.
If you’re concerned about a loved one exhibiting symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s, read on. Our team at Casa de Salud provides senior care services and has experience diagnosing and managing cognitive issues in people of the older generation.
Understanding Alzheimer’s disease
The history of Alzheimer's starts in 1906, when Dr. Alois Alzheimer saw a 51-year-old female patient who had difficulty performing simple tasks, remembering events, and expressing herself verbally.
After the patient died, Dr. Alzheimer performed an autopsy on her and found
abnormal bundles of fibers in her brain, which we now know to be amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau tangles.
These changes in the brain are now considered the main hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, some fortunate patients who have these brain alterations never develop the cognitive symptoms.
The first signs of Alzheimer’s may include the following:
- Difficulty remembering events
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty finding words
- Confusion with regards to location
- Misplacing objects
- Personality changes
To diagnose Alzheimer's, specialists often use a combination of imaging techniques (to rule out other potential causes of cognitive decline) and neurological testing.
The causes of Alzheimer’s aren’t well understood, but some specialists have noticed that patients who suffer from heart disease and diabetes are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Brain insulin resistance, a condition in which the brain doesn’t use insulin properly, is found in some people with Alzheimer’s as well.
As it stands, there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s. However, there are medications that can improve a patient’s quality of life or slow down the progression of their symptoms.
Dementia is not a disease, but a general term that describes cognitive issues. Alzheimer’s is one type of dementia. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body disease, and frontal lobe dementia.
All these types of dementia share some common traits, such as problems performing daily tasks, poor decision-making, forgetfulness, and language issues. Some types of dementia, such as Lewy body disease, may involve hallucinations.
Depending on the cause of dementia, the treatment may involve the following:
- Medications that lower blood pressure
- Antidepressants and antipsychotics
- Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors
Vascular dementia, which occurs due to ministrokes inside the brain, can be prevented by maintaining blood pressure within the normal range. In some cases, dementia-like symptoms may also be prevented by avoiding a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vegetarians, vegans, and patients who take metformin for diabetes or proton pump inhibitors and antibiotics to treat H. pylori infections may need to supplement B12 to prevent deficiency.
Get tested a for cognitive issues
Asking a medical specialist about cognitive issues is never easy, but our team at Casa de Salud gives you and your loved ones get all the support you need during the testing.
Contact us to schedule an appointment. We’ll provide medical care and expert advice on any symptoms you or a loved one may be experiencing.