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Alzheimers Disease

Alzheimer's disease

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheier’s disease is a brain disorder that affects a person's memory, thinking, and reasoning ability. People with this disease often have difficulty speaking clearly, learning new things, and remembering most recent activities. Over a period of time, this makes hard for them to handle their day to day activities and take care of themselves.

There are many causes for dementia, but Alzheimer's disease is one of the most common causes of dementia especially in older age people. Alzheimer’s disease usually begins after the age of 65 and the risk goes up with the age. While younger people also get this disease, it is seen less common.

Alzheimer's disease is named after a doctor Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor. In the year 1906. Dr. Alzheimer had noticed several changes in the brain tissue of a woman who died of an unusual mental illness. He then found abnormal clumps and tangled bundles of fibers. These clumps are now known as amyloid plaques and the tangles are known as neurofibrillary tangles. These plaques and tangles in the brain now are considered as signs of Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the dying back of the cerebral cortex with collection of proteins into the neuritic plaques in the cortex and neurofibrillary tangles of the brain. The first identified symptom of Alzheimer’s usually is memory loss. As this progresses, decline in daily day-to-day activities and impairments in behavior become more apparent.

The important risk factor in this disease is age advancing; of course heredity also plays an important role. Once the dementia has set in, people usually are in need of an assistant with their daily living or a skilled nursing facility. Several different medications are available to treat the multiple aspects of this disease, but these treatments will not slow down the progression of the disease. Exercises with a healthy diet and mentally stimulating activities may be helpful to the patient.

Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimers disease begins very slowly with a sign of mild forgetfulness. People in their early stage of Alzheimer disease find it difficult remembering the most recent activities or events and even the names of familiar people. As the disease progresses, forgetfulness starts to interfere with their daily activities. People forget the way back to home. These symptoms are easily noticed to cause their family members to seek a need for medical attention.

Alzheimer’s People in their middle stages of disease may even forget how to do the basic tasks like combing their hair or brushing their teeth. These people begin having problems speaking, reading, writing, and understanding. Sometimes, people with Alzheimers become anxious, aggressive or agitated or even move away from home.

Signs and symptoms of mild Alzheimer's disease may include:
  • Memory loss and confusion
  • Confusion about the familiar people names, location, and places
  • Repetitive movements, statements, and muscle twitches
  • Taking long time to begin normal daily tasks
  • Trouble handling money matters.
  • Poor judgment skills.
  • Loss of spontaneousness and initiative
  • Mood changes
  • Increased anxiety levels
  • Difficulty recognizing family members and friends.
  • Difficulty with reading and writing
  • Difficulty working with numbers and math
  • Difficulty organizing things and thinking logically
  • Inability to learn new things.
  • Restlessness, agitation, and tearfulness
  • Wandering especially in the late afternoons or at nights
  • Hallucinations and delusions, and suspiciousness.
  • Loss of impulse control
Signs and symptoms of severe Alzheimer’s disease may include:
  • Inability to communicate
  • Inability to identify family members or loved ones
  • Increased sleeping
  • Loss of self sense
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Seizures
  • Skin infections and difficulty swallowing
  • Moaning, groaning, and grunting
  • Lack of bladder and bowel movements control
  • Entirely dependent on the caregiver

Alzheimer's disease Diagnosis

An early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can help patients and their family members to plan for the patient’s future. So that it gives them the time to discuss treatment and care options while the patient still can take part in making the decisions. Although no medicine can slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, early diagnosis can offer the best chance in treating the symptoms of this disease.

The only definitive way in diagnosing the Alzheimer's disease is by finding out whether there are any plaques and tangles in the brain tissue. To look for brain tissue, the doctors must wait until they get an autopsy, an examination of the body that is done after a person dies. Where, doctors can only make a diagnosis of possible Alzheimer's while the person is still alive.

At some specialized centers, doctors will diagnose the Alzheimer's disease precisely up to 90 percent of the time.

Alzheimer's disease Treatments

There is no definitive cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are certain treatments that may prevent certain symptoms from getting worse for a limited period of time.

Alzheimer’s disease begins slowly with mild memory loss ending in death. It varies from person to person, how fast it changes and the time from diagnosis till the end of life. This can be as little as three years if the patient is above 80 years of age when diagnosed or may be as long as ten years or even more if the person is younger.

There is no treatment that can stop Alzheimer's disease, however, for some patients in the early and middle stage of the disease, certain drugs Aricept ®, Exelon ® or Razadyne® may help in preventing some of the symptoms from getting worse for a limited period of time. Aricept® is also being approved for severe symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and another drug called Namenda® is approved for use in moderate to severe symptoms of the disease, but it is limited in its effect on the disease.

Some drugs may help control the patient’s behavioral symptoms such as anxiety, sleeplessness, wandering, agitation, and depression.

Treating above symptoms make patients as well as the caregivers feel more comfortable making their care easier.

Memory aids such as big calendars with a list of day-to-day plans, notes about safety tips, directions, may help patients in the day-to-day activities in the early stages of Alzheimer's.  

Friends and family members can assist in continuing their daily activities. Patients with Alzheimer's disease should be kept up-to-date of the details such as the time of the day, where do they live, and what is happening at home or in the world every day.