This very common question is sparked by shared confusion about the meaning of each of these terms. Many in the health profession prefer the word “dementia” because the word “Alzheimer’s” can be overwhelming and frightening. But the terms are not always interchangeable.
According to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “dementia is not a specific disease. It is a descriptive term for a collection of symptoms that can be caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain.”
Dementia is an umbrella term and under this umbrella are a number of diseases that share a set of symptoms. Alzheimer ’s disease is one of the conditions under the dementia umbrella. Other conditions under the dementia umbrella are vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Huntington’s disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
There are other conditions that may cause dementia-like symptoms including metabolic problems, reactions to medications, nutritional deficiencies, infections, poisoning, brain tumors, and heart disease. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among people age 65 and older, medical evaluation is required to determine the exact cause of each person’s dementia symptoms.
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