Difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are two different terms that are often used in an interchangeable manner. Patients and their families often end up confusing the two terms. The diagnosis and treatment of the two, however, are somewhat different.

A clear definition is not yet available for the two diseases. This is why people often confuse the two when communicating about them. A report by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) says that dementia in itself is a brain disorder which includes varied symptoms, whilst Alzheimer’s is a specific form of dementia. Named after Alois Alzheimer, who discovered the disease for the first time, Alzheimer’s disturbs the brain. Over 520,000 people in the UK are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.


Dementia vs Alzheimer’s
Breakdown of the population with dementia across the UK

Dementia is an overall tag used for a brain disease that causes several symptoms at a time. These symptoms may be related to deterioration of memory in patients. Dementia affects the person’s thinking abilities enough to eventually affect his daily tasks. Many different conditions may be responsible for dementia symptoms in a person. Some of these are revocable, though, such as vitamin deficiencies.

Alzheimer’s disease is most commonly seen as a cause of dementia. A number of issues such as a decline in problem-solving ability, or a problem in language or communication occur in patients of dementia. And all these symptoms can be a consequence of varied health conditions including Alzheimer’s.

When a person contracts  Alzheimer’s disease, he tends to build up proteins in his brain which make different structures such as plaques and tangles. This leads to loss of nerve cell connection, thereby eventually causing them to die. Also, brain tissue is lost in the meantime.

Alzheimer’s patients lack some chief brain chemicals, which are necessary to communicate signals around the brain. Nevertheless, with proper treatment, the level of these chemicals can be augmented in the patient’s brain, which may eventually reduce the symptoms.

Dementia vs Alzheimer’s

What’s the difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s? Dementia is a whole term that comprises varied symptoms related to cognitive decline and causes disturbance with a person’s daily activities. Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is one of the many forms of dementia. It particularly affects a part of the brain responsible for controlling your thoughts and memory.

Not one or two, but a multitude of symptoms may contribute to dementia. But, even as few as two  symptoms amongst the following may indicate dementia: memory loss; problems with visual perception, communication and language, reasoning and judgment; an inability to focus and concentrate. In the case of Alzheimer’s, memory loss or a decline in memory may be the very first symptom. Other issues may include problems with reasoning, communication and thinking.

Symptoms caused by dementia are usually untreatable. But, those caused by the conditions like excess use of alcohol, vitamin deficiencies, or depression may still see an improvement when treated. When it comes to Alzheimer’s, it may be a result of genetic disorder, or certain other factors such as stroke, or metabolic conditions like diabetes.

Comparison Chart

Dementia Alzheimer’s
A general term for a brain disorder related to aging that causes varied symptoms. A form of Dementia.
Treatments include drug treatments and some non-drug therapies. Treatments include drug treatments and talking therapies.
Risk factors include genetics, age, cardiovascular and other physical conditions. Risk factors include age, gender, lifestyle, health conditions, and genetic inheritance.


Watch this video to learn more about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.