What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia are commonplace with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that 5.8 million people in the United States live with these diseases. This number is expected to rise to 14 million by 2060.

But what is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?

“Dementia is a global term that just refers generally to loss of memory or cognition impairments that people observe,” said Becky Briesacher, associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy and Health Systems Sciences at Northeastern University.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a specific disease. (Dementia) is more sort of a syndrome, meaning it’s large. It encompasses a bunch of different features,” Briesacher added.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, caused by the growth of plaques and tangles in the brain that lead to the death of neural pathways.

But dementia can also be caused by neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Dementia can also be prompted by conditions that lead to lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain (vascular dementia) or nerve loss in the frontal lobe known as frontotemporal dementia.

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