Differences Between Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s is a serious disease of the brain that affects cognitive functions. Everyone experiences a bit of forgetfulness throughout their lives, which is normal. However, as we age, we may notice that we’re experiencing more forgetfulness than usual that may be attributed to a greater issue within the brain, such as memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s. Although sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, each has a different meaning.

Memory Loss

Memory loss refers to an abnormal amount of forgetfulness that is out of character. There are a few different types of memory loss, such as short term, long term and amnesia. There is a chance for this forgetfulness to resolve itself, however, it has potential to worsen over time depending upon the cause. Frequent or extensive memory loss can be a symptom of a greater internal issue, so, if you or a loved one is experiencing more-than-usual forgetfulness, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a doctor to investigate the root of the issue.

Dementia

Although there are various forms of dementia-related illnesses, dementia in itself is not a disease. Rather, it is a term used to describe symptoms that are caused by a decline in memory and other cognitive functions, resulting in a decrease in one’s abilities to perform typical day-to-day tasks. Dementia symptoms (such as cognitive problems, hallucinations, mood swings, etc.) are progressive, meaning they worsen over time. Specific symptoms associated with dementia are determined by the sections of the brain that are being damaged by which disease. Memory loss is a typical symptom of a dementia-related disease, such as Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain that slowly causes a decline in memory and other cognitive functions. Most people with this progressive, dementia-related disorder begin showing symptoms in their mid-60s. But, what causes Alzheimer’s? This disease occurs when certain proteins build up in the brain to form structures (known as plaques and tangles) which hinder important connections between nerve cells. When these cells are unable to communicate, if you will, they die, which results in a loss of brain tissue. As of today, there is no specific cure for this illness, however, there are activities one can partake in to help prevent or slow down its progression.

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