What's the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's disease?

Answer From Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. Dementia is not a specific disease. It's an overall term, sometimes referred to as an umbrella term, which describes a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms impact a person's ability to perform everyday activities independently. Common symptoms include:

  • A decline in memory
  • Changes in thinking skills
  • Poor judgment and reasoning skills
  • Decreased focus and attention
  • Changes in language and communication skills

Alzheimer's disease is one type of dementia, but it's not the only one. There are many different types and causes of dementia, including:

  • Lewy body dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Vascular dementia
  • Parkinson's disease dementia
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Huntington's disease
  • Mixed dementia

Alzheimer's disease, however, is the most well-known and common form of dementia but not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer's disease.

With

Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.

March 26, 2020 See more Expert Answers

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