Do you know the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's?

By: Maria Trimarchi

Dementia is a group of symptoms, but Alzheimer's is a disease. What kind of disorder is Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, for which there is no cure. Neurodegenerative diseases are progressive disorders. They cause more than just memory loss -- they cause gradual, ongoing damage to the structure and function of your central nervous systen (that's your brain and spinal cord).

Is it possible to have more than one type of dementia?

Yes, mixed dementia, as it's known, can happen. It's usually the result of having multiple conditions that all affect your ability to perform cognitive tasks like reasoning and memory recall, but it can only be confirmed during an autopsy.

What does a person need to be having a hard time with before being diagnosed with dementia?

To be diagnosed with dementia, a person needs to be having trouble with as few as two of these things: memory; concentration and focus; communication and speech; reasoning; making good judgements; and visual perception.

Is it true that dementia is just a normal part of aging?

No form of dementia is part of the normal aging experience.

Which is a symptom of moderate Alzheimer's disease, also known as middle-stage Alzheimer's?

In addition to these symptoms, people living with middle-stage Alzheimer's disease are becoming increasingly confused, forgetful and sometimes angry or delusional. They may not keep up with their hygiene, may have trouble with bladder control and are at an increased risk of wandering.

Which test do doctors use to diagnose Alzheimer's disease?

Doctors use multiple tests to diagnose the different forms of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed with attention, language, memory and vision tests, as well as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to see any abnormalities of the brain.

Is it true dementia and Alzheimer's are just two words for the same thing?

They're not the same -- Alzheimer's it actually a form of dementia. Dementia itself isn't a diagnosis. Rather, it's an overarching term for different types of conditions that cause symptoms of dementia.

Which is not a type of dementia?

While they may be less well-known than Alzheimer's disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington's disease and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome are all, also, types of dementia.

Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. What percent of people living with the disease are women?

Women make up about 66 percent of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease.

Which form of dementia can follow a stroke?

Stroke is a risk for it, although not everyone who has a stroke will develop vascular dementia. This type develops when the blood supply to the brain becomes blocked.

Which form of dementia damages the brain specifically behind your forehead and ears?

Frontotemporal dementia involves the loss of neurons in the front (behind the forehead) and around the sides (behind your ears) of your brain.

Which is not an early symptom of dementia?

Forgetfulness, even mild, is often one of the very first signs of dementia. As things progress, symptoms like getting lost in a famliar setting and poor hygiene and personal care can develop. But, thirst doesn't have anything to do with dementia.

Which is the key symptom of frontotemporal dementia?

Unlike other forms of dementia, memory problems aren't an early sign of FTD. Instead, warning signs of this dementia include personality changes, behavior changes and trouble with speech and language.

Amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are the hallmark of which type of dementia?

Plaques, formed by pieces of protein called beta-amyloid, and tangles, which are twisted strands of a protein called tau, are the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

The hallmark of dementias caused by damage to the subcortical region of the brain is memory problems, but also motor function. Which is a subcortical dementia?

Subcortical dementia affects the parts of the brain beneath the cortex, including the basal ganglia and thalamus. The result? An onset of symptoms that include significant impact to concentration, judgment, language, memory and mood, as well as impairment of motor skills (which may begin as something easily-overlooked, like clumsiness).

About 12 percent of people living with dementia have a type that's reversible. Which is not a common cause of these dementias?

The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, cannot, at least not currently, be reversed or cured. But some dementias -- including those that are alcohol-related, depression-induced or caused by disorders such as hypothyroidism, HIV and vitamin B12 deficiency -- can be. Doctors use this mnemonic device for remembering the reversible causes: (D)rugs, (e)motional-depression, (m)etabolic, (e)yes and ears, (n)ormal pressure hydrocephalus (t)umor or lesion, (i)nfection, (a)nemia.

How many people are diagnosed with dementia, worldwide, every year?

Of everyone on our planet, 9.9 million people will be diagnosed with a form of dementia every year.

Which type of dementia is responsible for as many as 70 percent of all dementia diagnoses?

Of the different forms of dementia, it's Alzheimer’s disease that's responsible for 50 to 70 percent of all dementia diagnoses. That makes it the most common type.

Does having Alzheimer's disease shorten your life expectancy?

Although it may not be the actual cause of death, having Alzheimer's does shorten a person's life.

How many Americans over age 65 are living with Alzheimer's disease?

One out of every 10 -- that's 10 percent -- people age 65 or older lives with Alzheimer's disease.

Early-onset Alzheimer's disease strikes people under what age?

About five percent of those living with Alzheimer's develop symptoms before age 65 -- which means there are roughly 200,000 people with early-onset disease.

One out of how many Americans dies with at least one form of dementia?

As many as one out of three Americans die with Alzheimer's disease or a different type of dementia.

Dementia is responsible for the deaths of more people than which two types of cancer, combined?

Even when you add them together, dementia is responsible for more deaths in the U.S. than the combined total of breast cancer and prostate cancer deaths.

How many people around the world are living with a form of dementia?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as 47.5 million people on our planet are living with some form of dementia.

Which is not a sign of Alzheimer's disease?

Don't worry if you misplace your keys or forget a name from time to time. That's totally normal. Forgetting where you live, where you are, what year it is, giving away money to scams, though, are warning signs.

Clumsiness, memory lapses and depression are early signs of which progressive brain disorder, which is caused by a single defective gene on chromosome 4?

These are the symptoms of Huntington's disease, which is caused by a defect in your genes, specifically on chromosome 4.

Which type of dementia has symtoms similar to Alzheimer's but often causes visual hallucinations?

Visual hallucinations aren't uncommon in people with Lewy body dementia, especially during the early symptoms of the disease.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a type of dementia caused by what vitamin deficiency?

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a chronic memory disorder, can be the result of a severe thiamine deficiency (that's vitamin B1).

Sometimes people develop more than one type of dementia. Which is the most common pair?

The most common pair of dementias that occur together are Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. Following that is Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body dementia, then Alzheimer’s with vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. Although other types of pairs occur, they aren't as common as these three.

Which rare form of dementia is caused by the same type of disease as "mad cow disease"?

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), which is also known as a prion disease. It's the most common prion disease that affects humans. Prion diseases like this one are rare progressive conditions that occur when prion proteins malfunction throughout the brain. TSEs are fatal.

Some dementias occur because of problems in the part of the brain called the cortex. Which is not a "cortical dementia"?

Dementias that are caused by damage to the cortex of the brain can cause problems with a person's cognitive functions, such as trouble with language, motor skills and spacial relationships. Alzheimer's disease, Binswanger's disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are examples of cortical dementia.

What is one of the most common causes of reversible dementia?

When you're thyroid's not working correctly, it can disrupt a lot of things about the way your body works -- including causing symptoms of cognitive impairment. Both low and high thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels can affect the risk, although it's hypothyroidism that is most commonly the problem.

Among people age 65 or older, Alzheimer's disease is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S. How prevalent is it among the entire U.S. population?

Because it affects more people over the age of 65 than under, Alzheimer's-related deaths are greater in that population. Among the entire U.S. population, Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death.

Which condition is not a form of dementia, although its symptoms look the same?

Acute organic brain syndrome, also known as delerium, can be confused with dementia because it has similar symptoms.

What's the most common cause of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which causes memory problems?

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is caused by a vitamin deficiency and is most commonly caused by alcohol abuse.

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About This Quiz

Right now, more than 5 million adults in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, that's projected to increase to as many as 16 million. And that's just how many people will be diagnosed. In the last 20 years, deaths from Alzheimer's have increased by 89 percent. As dementia becomes more prevalent among American adults, are you ready?

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