I am often asked "Is Alzheimer's the same as dementia?"

I am often asked “If you are diagnosed with dementia is this the same as Alzheimer’s disease?” Well given such an important question, it can only really be answered by the experts. However, from my own reading I do know that there are various types of dementia such as Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Frontal lobe dementia, and dementia with Lewy bodies. Not everyone will have the symptoms of one particular type – some people are even diagnosed as having mixed dementia and this affects individuals at varying degrees and so progress is at a different rate. In order to get the correct diagnosis then you should consult and ask your GP for a specific diagnosis. Based on this and to my knowledge, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by a build-up of plaques and tangles in the brain causing the brain cells to die much faster than they would in normal ageing. One of the first signs can be simply forgetting recent events, repeating things, confusing things or even getting lost. People can also become depressed or irritable and lose interest in doing things. Eventually the likelihood is that they will need help with their everyday tasks. Vascular dementia, the 2 nd most common form of dementia occurs when there is an interruption in the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain, as with what happens when you suffer a stroke. People with high blood pressure, heart problems, high blood lipids such as cholesterol are most at risk . So it is very important to identify and treat these conditions as quickly as possible. Frontal lobe dementia may not always provoke memory problems in the early stages. However, it can cause dramatic personality changes such as being very quiet and unassuming to being very loud and aggressive. Lewy bodies are abnormal proteins in the nerve cells of the brain. As well as having the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy bodies dementia can cause hallucinations, and cause problems with someone’s balance and walking. This condition is sensitive to antipsychotic drugs, which can be prescribed for other dementias but can lead to severe side effects and maybe even death in Lewy bodies dementia. Mild cognitive impairment is not actually dementia. This diagnosis is given for mild memory problems, when someone for instance is becoming forgetful and maybe has difficulty concentrating/thinking. Mild cognitive impairment does not always lead to dementia. Make no mistake having any form of dementia is very hard to cope with both for the sufferer and for their carers. For more helpful information, Dementia UK supports and offers Admiral Nurses who are specialist mental health nurses who provide practical and emotional help to families who are affected by dementia. Admiral Nursing Direct is a helpline available to anyone with an questions or concerns. To speak with someone simply call: 0845 257 9406 or send an email to: direct@dementiauk.org

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