Dementia is a syndrome, or a group of related symptoms, associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning.
This may include problems with memory loss, thinking speed, mental sharpness, language, understanding, judgement, mood, movement and difficulties carrying out daily activities.
There are many different causes of dementia and people often get confused between the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Put simply, Alzheimer’s disease is a particular type of dementia, and is in fact the most common type.
“The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet fully understood, although a number of things are thought to increase your risk of developing the condition,” said the NHS.
These include ageing, a family history of the disease, untreated depression, lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition, meaning the symptoms develop gradually over many years and eventually become more severe.
It affects multiple brain functions. The first sign of Alzheimer’s is usually minor memory problems.
Although there is no cure, medicines are available to relieve symptoms.
The second most common type of dementia is vascular dementia, which is estimated to affect around 150,000 people in the UK.
Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, which damages and eventually kills brain cells.
This can develop as a result of narrowing and blockage of the small blood vessels inside the brain.
A single stroke, or a series of mini strokes, can also lead to vascular dementia.
The disease tends to get worse over time, but is sometimes possible to slow down.
Dementia most commonly affects people over the age of 65, but it can happen in younger people too.
One in 14 people over 65 will develop dementia, and one in six people over 80 will get it.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, around 850,000 people in the UK have dementia.
This figure is estimated to increase to around one million by 2025.
“Although there is no cure for dementia at present, if it’s diagnosed in the early stages, there are ways you can slow it down and maintain mental function,” said the NHS.
“A diagnosis can help people with dementia get the right treatment and support, and help those close to them to prepare and plan for the future.”