Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder in which the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline.Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that disrupts a person’s ability to function independently.
The disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer. In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. Her symptoms included memory loss, language problems, and unpredictable behavior. After she died, he examined her brain and found many abnormal clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary, or tau, tangles).
These plaques and tangles in the brain are still considered some of the main features of Alzheimer’s disease. Another feature is the loss of connections between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. Neurons transmit messages between different parts of the brain, and from the brain to muscles and organs in the body. Many other complex brain changes are thought to play a role in Alzheimer’s, too.
This damage initially appears to take place in the hippocampus, the part of the brain essential in forming memories. As neurons die, additional parts of the brain are affected. By the final stage of Alzheimer’s, damage is widespread, and brain tissue has shrunk significantly.
Understanding Alzheimer’s and dementia
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases.Learn more about dimentia
Sign & Symptoms of Alzheimer
The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information.
the person must have experienced a decline in cognitive or behavioral function and performance compared with how they were previously. This decline must interfere with their ability to function at work or in usual activities.
Reduced ability to take in and remember new information, which can lead, for example,
- repetitive questions or conversations
- misplacing personal belongings
- forgetting events or appointments
- getting lost on a familiar route
Impairments to reasoning, complex tasking, and exercising judgment, for example:
- poor understanding of safety risks
- inability to manage finances
- poor decision-making ability
- inability to plan complex or sequential activities
If symptoms begin or worsen over the course of hours or days, you should seek immediate medical attention, as this could indicate an acute illness.
Alzheimer’s is most likely when memory loss is a prominent symptom, especially in the area of learning and recalling new information.
Language problems can also be a key early symptom, for example, struggling to find the right words.
If visualization deficits are most prominent, these would include:
inability to recognize objects and faces
difficulty comprehending separate parts of a scene at once
difficulty with reading text, known as alexia
The most prominent deficits in executive dysfunction would be to do with reasoning, judgment, and problem-solving.
Scientists believe that for most people, Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.
The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease aren’t fully understood, but at its core are problems with brain proteins that fail to function normally, disrupt the work of brain cells (neurons) and unleash a series of toxic events. Neurons are damaged, lose connections to each other and eventually die.
The damage most often starts in the region of the brain that controls memory, but the process begins years before the first symptoms. The loss of neurons spreads in a somewhat predictable pattern to other regions of the brains. By the late stage of the disease, the brain has shrunk significantly.
Researchers are focused on the role of two proteins:
Plaques. Beta-amyloid is a leftover fragment of a larger protein. When these fragments cluster together, they appear to have a toxic effect on neurons and to disrupt cell-to-cell communication. These clusters form larger deposits called amyloid plaques, which also include other cellular debris.
Tangles. Tau proteins play a part in a neuron’s internal support and transport system to carry nutrients and other essential materials. In Alzheimer’s disease, tau proteins change shape and organize themselves into structures called neurofibrillary tangles. The tangles disrupt the transport system and are toxic to cells.
The progression of Alzheimer’s can be broken down into three main stages:
Alzheimer’s disease typically progresses slowly in three general stages — mild (early stage), moderate (middle stage), and severe (late stage). Since Alzheimer’s affects people in different ways, the timing and severity of dementia symptoms varies as each person progresses through the stages of Alzheimer’s differently.
Mild Alzheimer’s disease (early stage)
In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, a person may function independently. He or she may still drive, work and be part of social activities. Despite this, the person may feel as if he or she is having memory lapses, such as forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects.
Friends, family or others close to the individual begin to notice difficulties. During a detailed medical interview, doctors may be able to detect problems in memory or concentration. Common difficulties include:
Problems coming up with the right word or name
Trouble remembering names when introduced to new people
Challenges performing tasks in social or work settings.
Forgetting material that one has just read
Losing or misplacing a valuable object
Increasing trouble with planning or organizing
Moderate Alzheimer’s disease (middle stage)
Moderate Alzheimer’s is typically the longest stage and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, the person with Alzheimer’s will require a greater level of care.
During the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s, the dementia symptoms are more pronounced. A person may have greater difficulty performing tasks, such as paying bills, but they may still remember significant details about their life.
You may notice the person with Alzheimer’s confusing words, getting frustrated or angry, or acting in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe. Damage to nerve cells in the brain can make it difficult to express thoughts and perform routine tasks.
At this point, symptoms will be noticeable to others and may include:
Forgetfulness of events or about one’s own personal history
Feeling moody or withdrawn, especially in socially or mentally challenging situations
Being unable to recall their own address or telephone number or the high school or college from which they graduated
Confusion about where they are or what day it is
The need for help choosing proper clothing for the season or the occasion
Trouble controlling bladder and bowels in some individuals
Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night
An increased risk of wandering and becoming lost
Personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and delusions or compulsive, repetitive behavior like hand-wringing or tissue shredding
Severe Alzheimer’s disease (Final stage)
In the final stage of this disease, dementia symptoms are severe. Individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases, but communicating pain becomes difficult. As memory and cognitive skills continue to worsen, significant personality changes may take place and individuals need extensive help with daily activities.
There is no single test for Alzheimer’s disease, so doctors will look at the signs and symptoms, take a medical history, and rule out other conditions before making a diagnosis.
They may also check the person’s neurological function, for example, by testing their balance, senses, and reflexes.
Other assessments may include a blood or urine test, a CT or MRI scan of the brain, and screening for depression.
Sometimes the symptoms of dementia are related to an inherited disorder such as Huntington’s disease, so genetic testing may be done.
After ruling out other possible conditions, the doctor will carry out cognitive and memory tests, to assess the person’s ability to think and remember.
- Family History
- Down syndrome
- life style & heart health
- Past Head Trauma
- poor sleep patterns
There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s. The death of brain cells cannot be reversed.
However, there are therapeutic interventions that can make it easier for people to live with the disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the following are important elements of dementia care:
effective management of any conditions occurring alongside the Alzheimer’s
activities and day-care programs
involvement of support groups and services
No disease-modifying drugs are available for Alzheimer’s disease, but some options may reduce the symptoms and help improve quality of life.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a preventable condition. However, a number of lifestyle risk factors for Alzheimer’s can be modified. Evidence suggests that changes in diet, exercise and habits — steps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease — may also lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that cause dementia. Heart-healthy lifestyle choices that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s include the following:
Eat a diet of fresh produce, healthy oils and foods low in saturated fat
Follow treatment guidelines to manage high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol
If you smoke, ask your doctor for help to quit smoking
Studies have shown that preserved thinking skills later in life and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease are associated with participating in social events, reading, dancing, playing board games, creating art, playing an instrument, and other activities that require mental and social engagement.
How Long Can a Person Live with Alzheimer’s Disease?
The time from diagnosis to death varies—as little as 3 or 4 years if the person is older than 80 when diagnosed, to as long as 10 or more years if the person is younger.Although treatment can help manage symptoms in some people, currently there is no cure for this devastating disease.
We’re sure, you now have a fair idea of what Alzheimer’s disease is is all about and the way it could impact your life. Please feel free to contact us firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to take a second opinion on your condition or undergo treatment for the same.