Differentiating between Alzheimer's and other types of dementia occurs when viewing images of the brain, according to Healthline. Alzheimer's disease is a specific condition, while dementia refers to a collection of symptoms that can come from a number of different conditions. One of the conditions that can lead to dementia is Alzheimer's itself.
Alzheimer's is diagnosed as the cause of dementia when anomalous protein deposits are seen in the brain, which build tangles and plaques that destroy connections among cells and eventually shrink the brain, reports Healthline. This diagnosis is not 100 percent confirmed while a patient is alive, however, as only an autopsy can verify changes in brain tissue.
About 35.6 million people worldwide currently live with dementia, as stated by Healthline. Alzheimer's disease progressively erodes cognitive function and memory. The precise cause and cure remain unknown. Over 5 million people in the United States currently suffer from Alzheimer's disease, with most showing symptoms after the age of 60, although younger people also develop this. Between diagnosis and death, the progression takes as few as three years in people older than 80, but in younger patients, the progression can take much longer.
Dementia, on the other hand, refers to any number of problems of the brain that become more likely as people get older, according to Healthline. It often starts with mere forgetfulness, but the confusion grows, and people have a harder time remembering faces and names. People who have inadequate hygiene, make poor decisions and repeat questions may have dementia. Eventually, they cannot care for themselves, but unless an underlying condition is terminal, dementia is not fatal.