What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?

Mark Beaumont MD

January 12, 2022



Writer: Mark Beaumont

Topic: Alzheimer’s Information

Working Title: What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?

Word Count: 400-600 words

Deadline: 9/17/19


Audience: People with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, and loved ones. 

Format: Short introduction, headline for each “fact”, one paragraph for each fact explaining it in more detail, short conclusion. Voice should be really engaging. Work hard to get/retain readers’ attention at the start—without overselling the story to follow. Here’s a sample piece (not the same subject area), but what we’re looking for in terms of a tight, engaging introduction, and then holding the reader’s interest throughout.

What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? This is a question that is commonly asked. Many people wonder if they are the same because the two terms are often used for each other. 

Dementia is not a disease, it is a symptom that is seen in many people with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions. 

Symptoms are physical and mental features that point to a condition or disease. Dementia is a general term for loss of memory and cognitive abilities that are serious enough to interfere with daily life. It is defined as a “persistent disorder of the brain caused by disease or injury and marked by trouble remembering and personality changes.” There are many causes of dementia. For example, severe head trauma from a fall or repeated trauma can over time possible cause dementia. Other insults to the brain such as an infection and complications from a stroke can also cause dementia. Everyone with the symptom of dementia does not have Alzheimer’s disease because there are other causes of dementia but everyone with Alzheimer’s disease, by definition, has dementia. The World Health Organization reports that approximately 47.5 million people around the world are living with dementia.

What Are the Symptoms of Dementia?

  1. Dementia is a decline in mental abilities that lead to these symptoms:
  2. Memory loss or confusion; the most common symptom of dementia
  3. Difficulty doing familiar tasks, such as making a cup of tea or changing the setting on the television
  4. Challenges understanding visual information making it difficult to read or drive
  5. Problems with speaking and or writing making hard to engage in conversations
  6. Personality changes affecting daily life which include mood swings, personality changes, becoming irritable, depressed, fearful, or anxious.
  7. Confusion about time or location
  8. Difficulty with judgment or reasoning causing poor decisions
  9. Difficulty with following a plan, such as directions when driving or a recipe when cooking 
  10. Difficulty with problem solving, such as solving a puzzle 

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness that affects the brain and slowly causes memory impairment and loss of cognition. 

The exact cause is still unknown and there is no cure available. It is caused by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain which starts the disease. These plaques are toxic proteins that appear in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. They often form many years before Alzheimer’s symptoms appear as a result the brain experiences long periods of harmful exposure and cell death which can over time cause symptoms which include memory loss.

The National Institutes of Health estimate that more than 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease. Although younger people can and do get Alzheimer’s, the symptoms generally begin after age 60.

What Are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Typically, memory loss is the symptom most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease but it is not the only symptom. Some of the other symptoms include:

memory loss including difficulty remembering events, people or conversations

  1. apathy (lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern)
  2. depression
  3. impaired judgment
  4. disorientation
  5. confusion
  6. behavioral changes
  7. difficulty speaking, swallowing, or walking in advanced stages of the disease