Alzheimer's blog

Clearing up confusion over dementia symptoms, Alzheimer's

By Angela Lunde October 19, 2010

Let's clear up some confusion about "dementia" and "Alzheimer's disease." The words are sometimes used interchangeably, or people think that if they are told they have dementia that means they don't have Alzheimer's.

Dementia is not a specific disease. Dementia is simply a word for a group of symptoms that affect cognition and thinking. These symptoms can include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Language difficulties
  • Confusion with time and place
  • Decreased judgment
  • Personality changes

These symptoms can be caused by conditions that include underactive thyroid, vitamin deficiency, brain tumors and depression. Even certain medications can cause dementia symptoms.

If these conditions are present and treated, dementia symptoms often improve. However, if during an evaluation these reversible causes of dementia symptoms are ruled out then the probable cause may be due to a progressive, non-reversible disease such Alzheimer's, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia or vascular dementia. For a description of each of these causes, please see the dementia article in the See Also area below.

Oct. 19, 2010