We found it time and time again the importance of understanding the difference between dementia and amnesia.
This is one of the reasons it is important to discuss the differences between the two.
There are SEVERAL areas in which amnesia and dementia differ, and we will discuss them in-depth in this article.
What is the difference between dementia and amnesia?
Dementia can be described as a progressive disorder that affects various domains like attention, language, memory, judgment/ executive function, perception motor i.e. visual construction and visual perception and social cognition.
This normally influences an individual’s day-to-day activities because it affects the capability to perform basic motor functions.
Dementia also showcases personality distortions.
We can describe amnesia, on the other hand, as the inability to recall old memories or form new ones.
It is among the most common symptoms of dementia and is also known as an amnestic syndrome. People who have amnesia retain their motor skills.
Although some common causes can lead to both amnesia and dementia, others remain distinct.
Experts state that dementia is brought about by the loss or damage to nerve cells and their connections in the brain.
Many resources also include age as one of the causes of dementia.
Diversely, there is a wide range of conditions that can result in amnesia.
These may include but are not limited to seizures, head injury, brain surgery, severe illness, hysteria, high fever, concussions, drug or alcohol abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, general aesthetic, and electroconvulsive therapy.
Amnesia generally has two primary features. One is challenged with learning new information after the onset of dementia.
The other one is having a difficult time recalling past events or information that was once familiar.
In dementia cases, when a person experiences memory loss, it does not affect a person’s general knowledge, intelligence, judgment, attention span, identity or personality.
In most cases, individuals with amnesia can UNDERSTAND both spoken and written words.
They can also learn new skills, like playing the piano or riding a bike. Many of them also know that they have a memory disorder.
The symptoms of dementia are quite different from those of amnesia.
Persons with dementia may have issues with solving problems or planning.
Many are confused about the place or time and have challenges completing tasks they frequently do like getting to a familiar location, making coffee, or changing the settings on the TV.
Most also have issues with writing or speaking, and they have a hard time grasping visual information as the disease progresses.
It is also common for persons with dementia to experience changes in personality and mood as well as withdrawing from their social circles.
We also see the differences between dementia and amnesia in the different types of these conditions.
There are about nine different types of dementia. These are
- Alzheimer’s disease – this is the most common dementia type
- Vascular dementia is the second most common dementia type
- Lewy body dementia (or dementia with Lewy bodies)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease – this is a very rare form of dementia
- Mixed dementia
- Huntington’s disease
- Normal-pressure hydrocephalus
Primarily, there are two types of amnesia i.e.
This is the inability to recollect details that a person acquired before a specific date, usually the date of operation or accident.
It is the inability to relocate new details to the long-term store from the short-term memory store. People with this type of amnesia cannot recall things for long periods.
The two types of amnesia are not mutually exclusive because they can both occur at the same time.
When looking at the differences between dementia and amnesia, it is worth talking about treatment.
Sadly to date, there is still no cure for dementia.
The disease is typically progressive, disabling, and fatal.
With amnesia, most forms usually fix themselves without the need for treatment. However, if there is a need for treatment, doctors may recommend different options such as:
2. Cognitive therapy using expert language or speech therapists especially for persons who have mild to moderate loss of memory.
3. Treating the underlying medical conditions that result in amnesia. These are conditions like kidney and liver diseases, low thyroid functions, head injuries, stroke, bleeding and blood clots in the brain amongst others.
When differentiating dementia and amnesia, statistics indicate that dementia is MORE prevalent than amnesia.
Across the globe, there are more than 50 million individuals who have dementia. There are up to 10 million new cases that crop up every year, according to the World Health Organization.
Even though amnesia has been prominently featured in movies, it does not affect as many people in real life.
A study on transient global amnesia records that amnesia usually affects people between the ages of 40-80 years and it has an incidence of 5 per 100,000 population every year.
Several points come up when differentiating dementia and amnesia, as highlighted above.
Summing up, amnesia is memory loss, while dementia is a global loss of higher brain functions.