Oftentimes it is difficult for the onlooker to differentiate between a stroke and dementia. Both present as neurological conditions wherein the symptoms might seem similar and unless an expert in the medical field is consulted, the onset would go off unnoticed. Several overlapping symptoms make it difficult for the disease to present itself at first glance. Read on to get more information about the subtle differences between Stroke and Dementia.
Stroke Vs Dementia: Differences Worth Knowing
A stroke happens when a clot is present in the artery and ends up obstructing blood flow to a part of the brain depriving it of oxygen. It can present itself suddenly without any longstanding evident symptoms, especially to the naked eye. The person having stroke can experience onset of weakness, slurred speech, confusion, vision changes, articulation problems and loss of balance. Any or all of these problems can occur with a stroke.
Dementia is an issue more mentally related than anything else. The person does not experience any physical issues like weakness or loss of balance with this. In dementia, a person may be dealing with forgetfulness, confusion, moodiness, anger and paranoia. Dementia does not cause weakness of any part of the body per se, unless the person is affected by another medical condition.
Stroke Vs Dementia: Differences Based On Their Symptoms
With stroke, the foremost presenting symptoms would be face drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulty. A number of stroke symptoms such as severe headache, sudden numbness, issues with vision like involuntary eye movements or double vision, trouble with balance or coordination, may present itself in combination with the foremost presenting symptoms.
Dementia is a longstanding issue. The symptoms of dementia present itself as forgetfulness, anger, agitation without cause, or dementia may be caused due to Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is basically a broad term used for declining mental function and can present itself in the form of difficulty performing daily tasks, difficulty remembering things difficulty communicating and reasoning, difficulty with complex tasks, and/or difficulty being organized.
Stroke Vs Dementia: Differences Based on their Risk Factors:
Risk Factors for Stroke Include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Race and ethnicity
- Personal or family history of stroke or TIA
- Brain aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation
- High cholesterol
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise.
Those who have a combination or one or two of the above risk factors are reportedly at higher risk of facing a stroke than those who lead a healthy lifestyle. The risk can be diminished by making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, exercising, changes in diet, high fibre foods to control cholesterol levels, losing weight, regular check ups in case of family history of stroke/TIA.
Risk Factors for Dementia Include:
- Alcohol use and abuse
- Down syndrome
- Mental illness
Diseases of the heart, diabetes, hypertension, all when controlled can reduce the risk of dementia onset. Quitting smoking can of course reduce the chance of stopping blood flow to areas of the brain.
Stroke Vs Dementia: Differences Based on their Treatment
When a stroke occurs, the first 3-24 hours after is referred to as the “golden window” or “golden hour”. It is called so as there is a good chance of reversing any damage that the stroke may have caused to the brain by starting the patient on medication soon after initial diagnosis of a stroke. Early treatment is crucial in stroke cases as blood flow to a part of the brain is cut off due to a clot in the artery. Brain cells are dying every minute and irreversible damage is caused the more delay that occurs. tPA is given via IV so as to dissolve the clot and improve blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood flow.
Dementia treatment depends on the cause firstly. In cases of Alzheimer’s disease with dementia, there is no cure per se. But the symptoms or progression of Dementia can be slowed down with the help of medication. Symptomatic treatment is the basis for treatment here.
Stroke is caused due to a clot in the artery which obstructs the flow of oxygen to a part of the brain whereas dementia is a decline in mental function, which can pose other risks in day to day life and require constant supervision and support.
It can be difficult to differentiate between a stroke and dementia, but with a little knowledge of the both and also reaching out to someone else if you have the slightest doubt can go a long way in helping save a life.
- American Stroke Association. (n.d.). About Stroke. https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke
- Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.). What Is Dementia? https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2021). Stroke Information Page. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Stroke-Information-Page
- Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers
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