Are dementia and Alzheimer’s the same thing?
You may use the terms Alzheimer’s and dementia as if they mean the same thing, but they’re really two different terms. Here’s the difference.
Dementia is a syndrome linked to problems with remembering, learning new things, focusing and making decisions that affect everyday life. It’s an umbrella term that includes thinking (cognitive) problems that interfere with someone’s normal day-to-day functioning.
Dementia can affect behavior, decision-making, memory, language, visual or spatial perception, and attention, among other areas of daily living. More than one of these areas is usually affected, but one area may be more affected than another.
There are four main types of dementia:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Lewy body dementia
- Frontotemporal degeneration
In other words, Alzheimer’s disease is a form – or cause – of dementia. Dementia, on the other hand, isn’t a specific disease. Dementia is a syndrome. Dementia is also an overall term – sometimes referred to as an umbrella term — that describes a range of symptoms.
Each form of dementia has different characteristics and causes specific symptoms. Because dementia describes a range of symptoms and many disorders, it’s possible to have symptoms of more than one disorder at the same time.
Alzheimer’s disease is one cause of dementia, but it’s not the only one.
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in Mayo Clinic on Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias, recently published by Mayo Clinic Press.