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  • Writer's pictureRichard Kadri-Langford

Is Dementia the same as Alzheimer’s?

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

Dementia and Alzheimer’s: two words which have the ability to strike fear into those who are perhaps becoming a little forgetful in later life. But how concerned should we be? Are dementia and Alzheimer’s interchangeable as terms, and is a little forgetfulness something to be concerned about?

Let’s start by saying that any changes should be discussed with a doctor. They will be able to rule out any underlying health conditions in the first instance. For example, an underactive thyroid could lead to a slowing down of cognitive ability and memory problems but can easily be treated with replacement thyroid hormones.

Even when potential underlying issues have been ruled out, we should remember that some memory slow-down is a natural part of growing old. To illustrate this, the Alzheimer’s Society [1] has a handy online table which looks at some of the differences between natural ageing and possible signs of vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. For example, forgetting where you put your keys but being able to find them after a search may well be a sign of growing older, whereas putting keys in the fridge might signal the potential development of some form of dementia.

This leads us on to the relationship between dementia and Alzheimer’s. In effect dementia is an umbrella term used for a group of conditions which are severe enough to eventually lead to a deterioration in our ability to cope with day to day living. Within this overall group, Alzheimer’s disease is the most commonly occurring condition, followed by vascular dementia. According to the World Health Organisation, Alzheimer’s accounts for some 60-70% of dementia cases. [2]

Knowing which type of dementia an individual may be suffering from enables doctors not only to anticipate the potential progress of the disease but also to provide appropriate medicines and therapies. These may well vary according to the type of dementia diagnosed. Whilst there is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s, the earlier the diagnosis, the sooner that treatments can be put in place which may slow down development or ease symptoms.

That’s one reason why Dementia Action Week which runs from 16-22 May 2022 is so important. Thanks partly to the impact of Covid, dementia diagnosis rates have fallen to a five year low. That potentially leaves a considerable number of individuals without a diagnosis and therefore without the help which they and their loved ones need in order to manage this important challenge in their lives.

So how can Occuity help in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s? Whilst we are currently developing a non-contact handheld device that uses innovative optical technology to screen for diabetes through a simple scan of the eye, we hope to build upon this technology by applying our knowledge and research to design a device that can be used for the screening of Alzheimer’s disease.

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