What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

difference between Alzheimer's and dementia

Alzheimer’s is actually the most common type of dementia. That may be why we so often use the word “Alzheimer’s” in conversation to mean almost any dementia. But the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is that Alzheimer’s is a specific condition. Dementia is a syndrome.

What Is Dementia?

The word “dementia” refers to a set of symptoms, not one particular disease. In fact, there are many conditions that are considered forms of dementia. They have similar symptoms involving problems with memory, cognition, and communication. But they may have very different causes.

Some of those conditions are:

  • Alzheimer’s – about 50-70% of all dementia cases
  • Lewy body dementia – the condition Robin Williams suffered from in his last months
  • Parkinson’s – Michael J. Fox’s condition
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob – AKA mad cow disease
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff – most commonly caused by severe alcoholism
  • Huntington’s disease – an inherited degenerative disease
  • Drug use, strokes, and depression can also cause dementia

What Is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a specific form of dementia involving a specific area of the brain. One difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is that Alzheimer’s is incurable. Some forms of dementia can be reversed. But there are treatments for Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s tends to progress in three stages: mild, moderate, and severe.

  • The mild stage is usually when the first symptoms become noticeable. People start to worry about forgetfulness and confusion. The patient may have personality or mood changes.
  • Moderate Alzheimer’s involves an increase in the earlier symptoms. There’s no missing it at this point. And the patient will need care and supervision.
  • Severe or late-stage Alzheimer’s means the patient is completely incapable of self-care. Towards the end of this stage, the patient will probably be bedridden, incontinent, and unable to communicate.


The difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is that not every form of dementia is so grim. Some can be reversed. And science is determined to find the answer to Alzheimer’s so that someday, it can be reversed as well.

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