What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t the same. Alzheimer's is a form of dementia and is the most common type.

Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t the same thing

Many people use the words Alzheimer’s and dementia interchangeably, but it’s important to know that they’re not the same thing.

Dementia is a syndrome, which is a group of symptoms that relate to a specific disorder or disease. It’s not a disease in itself.

Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases like Alzheimer’s, mini strokes, or traumatic brain injury.

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. It’s the most common type and accounts for 60 – 80% of all dementia cases. 

However, not all dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s. Aside from Alzheimer’s, there are 8 major types of dementia.

Learning about the difference between Alzheimer’s and other dementias is important because it helps you make more informed care decisions and find effective ways to manage symptoms.

We explain what dementia is, what Alzheimer’s disease is, and the differences between symptoms for Alzheimer’s vs. dementia.


What is dementia?

Dementia is an overall term for a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, reasoning, and cognitive skills. 

It’s important to know that dementia isn’t a normal part of aging.

It’s caused by physical changes in the brain that are usually triggered by disease, stroke, or injury.

Dementia isn’t just about simple memory lapses like forgetting someone’s name, where you parked, or where you left your glasses.

A person with dementia struggles with at least two of the following:

  • Memory
  • Communication and speech
  • Focus and concentration
  • Reasoning and judgment
  • Visual perception (can’t see the difference in colors or detect movement, or sees things that aren’t there)

There are many different types of dementia, so the specific symptoms that someone could experience will depend on the parts of their brain that are damaged and the disease that’s causing the dementia.

Types of dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is the leading type of dementia and accounts for 60 – 80% of all dementia cases. 

The second most common is vascular dementia which is typically caused by stroke or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs or mini-stroke).

Other conditions can also cause symptoms of dementia. 

Some are reversible, like urinary tract infections (UTIs), delirium, thyroid problems, or vitamin deficiencies. Others, like Parkinson’s disease, are not reversible.


What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disease. It’s the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and, as of now, there is no cure.

Alzheimer’s causes problems with cognitive functions like memory, judgement, decision-making, and behavior. 

Alzheimer’s symptoms are unpredictable, but usually develop slowly and worsen over time. 

It will get progressively more difficult for the person with Alzheimer’s to carry on a conversation or perform everyday tasks. 

Other common symptoms are confusion, aggression, and mood changes.

In the early stages, memory loss and other symptoms are usually mild. 

In later stages, common symptoms include problems with communication, complete dependence on others for care, loss of mobility, incontinence, problems eating, and challenging behaviors like repetitive questions, rummaging, wandering, or asking to go “home.”

Current FDA-approved treatments may reduce or delay symptoms, but typically work best in the early stages of the disease.


Alzheimer’s vs. dementia symptoms

Because Alzheimer’s and other dementias cause cognitive impairment, symptoms for the various types of dementia often overlap.

Generally, Alzheimer’s and other dementias cause:

  • Impaired memory
  • A decline in the ability to think and use reason and judgement
  • Impaired speaking and communication ability

Alzheimer’s symptoms typically include:

  • Loss of short-term memory
  • Impaired judgment
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Behavioral changes
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing, or walking in advanced stages of the disease

Lewy body dementia (LBD) has many symptoms in common with Alzheimer’s.

However, in LBD, people are more likely to experience visual hallucinations, difficulties with balance, and disturbed sleep.

In dementia caused by Parkinson’s disease, people are more likely to experience tremors, slowed movements, rigid muscles and joints, and speech changes.


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team

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  • Reply June 29, 2016


    Need more answers my mate has the start of something since last year and tells me to move and find another man no love fights with me and no love making 5 years he also abusive me help and makes bad choices not much money!!!!

    • Reply June 30, 2016

      Connie Chow

      If you’re being abused or feel like you’re in danger, please leave the situation and/or get help right away. Your safety is number one! For advice, a great free resource the Alzheimer’s Association. Their phone number is 1-800-272-3900 and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It also sounds like your partner may need medical treatment. Please try to get him to see a doctor for a complete physical and mental evaluation.

  • Reply March 13, 2016

    frena gray-davidson

    The simplest way to state this is: “All Alzheimer’s is dementia but not all dementias are Alzheimer’s.”
    The only reason Alzheimer’s became a dominant term is because in the years from 1969-1972, a number of very big drug companies re-awoke the buried name “Alzheimer’s” in order to start the big campaign for the one-drug fits all dementias.
    In 1969, we hadn’t heard from Dr Alzheimer since his death in 1915.
    While it’s good for people to know dementia is a disease, as opposed to “crazy”, the dominance still of use of the word Alzheimer’s has probably been a major factor in the failure in 40 years to find one useful remedy for intervention.
    Only now, and still not in the majority, is research beginning to explore in a less single-pointed way. To look for one thing to fix “dementia” is like treating smallpox, influenza and Zika as one “fever”.
    No wonder it’s taking so long…………..

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