Alzheimer’s Vs. Dementia: What’s the Difference

Alzheimer's disease and dementia are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to a set of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases. However, there are other causes of dementia as well. Let's explore the differences between Alzheimer's and dementia:

  1. Definition:
    • Dementia: Dementia is a general term that describes a decline in cognitive abilities that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is characterized by memory loss, communication difficulties, and impaired thinking.
    • Alzheimer's disease: Alzheimer's disease is a specific and most common form of dementia. It is a progressive brain disorder that causes memory loss, cognitive decline, and behavioral changes.
  2. Causes:
    • Dementia: Dementia can be caused by various underlying conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and others. Some causes of dementia are reversible, such as certain vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, or drug interactions.
    • Alzheimer's disease: Alzheimer's disease is primarily caused by abnormal protein deposits in the brain, including beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles. The exact cause of these abnormalities has not yet been discovered.
  3. Progression:
    • Dementia: Dementia is a progressive condition that worsens over time. The rate and pattern of decline can vary depending on the underlying cause of dementia.
    • Alzheimer's disease: Alzheimer's disease follows a specific progression. It typically starts with mild memory loss and progresses to more severe cognitive impairment, including disorientation, language difficulties, and behavioral changes.
  4. Prevalence:
    • Dementia: Dementia is a broad term that encompasses various conditions, and its prevalence depends on the specific cause. Estimates suggest that over 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia.
    • Alzheimer's disease: Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all cases. It is estimated that around 5-7 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's disease.
  5. Treatment:
    • Dementia: Treatment of dementia depends on its underlying cause. In some cases, treating the underlying condition can improve or stabilize symptoms. Supportive care, including cognitive and behavioral interventions, is also beneficial.
    • Alzheimer's disease: Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms, slowing down the progression, and improving the quality of life. Medications may be prescribed to manage cognitive symptoms and behavioral changes.


  1. Alzheimer's Association. (n.d.). What Is Alzheimer's? Retrieved from
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Dementia. Retrieved from
  3. World Health Organization. (2017). Dementia Fact Sheet. Retrieved from