WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Alzheimer’s disease is a mental illness that occurs slowly. It begins from one part of the brain that controls the memory and when it spreads to the other part of the brain, it affects the ability to express and behave. Although the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet known, but according to researchers, Alzheimer’s disease is probably the result of genetic influences, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.
It is the most common cause of dementia, which reduces the intellectual capacity drastically. These changes can prove to be bad for your day to day life. In Alzheimer’s disease, the brain cells begin to form and disappear on their own, causing a steady decline in memory and mental functions.
Presently Alzheimer’s disease medications and management strategies may temporarily improve its symptoms. There’s no cure available for Alzheimer’s disease, so it is necessary that supportive services are adopted.
STAGES OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE:
Alzheimer’s disease has the following three stages (✔️) —
In the initial stage, the patient’s friends, family and other persons may feel problems. During an extended therapy, physicians can detect problems in the patient’s memory or concentration. In the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the patient may independently drive, perform other works and social activities.
Despite this, the patient may feel that he / she is experiencing problems with his memory, forgetting familiar words or forgetting the place of everyday objects. Symptoms may include —
- Problems with thinking of the correct word or name
- Trouble remembering names when introduced with new people
- Challenges while working in social or work space
- Forget things you have just read
- To lose or misplace a valuable item
- Having trouble planning or organizing
The middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease is usually the longest and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s needs more care. A person with Alzheimer’s often gets confused in words and may behave strangely, such as refusing to take a bath.
Loss of nerve cells in the brain can make it difficult to express and perform routine tasks. At this time, the symptoms become noticeable to others such as —
- Forgetting about events or your personal history
- Feeling moody or erosive, in mentally challenged situations
- Unable to remember your own address or telephone number
- To be confused in the place or day of your presence
- Need help choosing the right clothes for the season or any occasion
- Problems in controlling the bladder and intestine
- Changes in sleeping time, such as sleeping during the day and restless at night
- Personality and behavioral changes, such as suspiciousness and confusion or repetitive behavior such as repeated hand jerking
In this stage of Alzheimer’s, the person loses the ability to react to the environment around him. As memory and cognitive skills deteriorate, significant personality changes may occur and individuals may need assistance in daily activities. Symptoms may include —
- Always need support for daily activities and personal care
- Losing awareness of recent experiences and surroundings
- Physical abilities such as trouble walking, sitting and swallowing
- Increased problems in communication
- Increased risk of infection, especially pneumonia
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
The initial symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be so mild and subtle that you do not see any change in your thinking or behavior. These symptoms are —
- Losing things and the inability to find back
- Memory problems affecting everyday life
- Difficulties in planning or problem solving
- Taking more time to complete normal daily tasks
- Stay away from time
- Having trouble setting distances and differentiating colors
- Difficulty in interaction
- Making incorrect decisions due to poor guessing
- Changes in mood and personality and increased anxiety
Alzheimer’s disease spreads to more areas of the brain. Family members and friends begin to feel changes in thinking and behavior of the people with Alzheimer’s. Symptoms may include —
- Problems identifying friends and family members
- Language problems and difficulty with reading, writing and working with numbers
- Difficulty in organizing thoughts and thinking cautiously
- Inability to learn new tasks or deal with new and unexpected situations
- Improper anger
- Perceptual problems, such as problems with getting up from a chair or setting a table, repeating things or activities, and sometimes muscle jerks
- Having confusion, doubt and irritability
- Impulse control problems, such as improper timing or using bad language in places
- Behavioral symptoms, such as restlessness, excitement, anxiety, crying, and wandering
- Lack of bladder and bowel control
- Weight loss
- To have a seizure
- Skin infections
- Groaning, sighing or grunting
- Difficulty swallowing
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CAUSES OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Scientists believe that in most people, Alzheimer’s disease arises from a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.
Less than 5% of the time, Alzheimer’s is caused by specific genetic changes that actually guarantee the disease to develop.
However, the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet completely determined but its effect on the brain is clear. Alzheimer’s disease harms or kills brain cells. Compared to a healthy brain, a brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease has very few cells and very few connections between the living cells.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
The risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease include —
- People over the age of 85 are at higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease
- You are also at a higher risk of having Alzheimer’s disease than other people in the family
- Low academic and professional attainment
- Prior head injury
- Sleeping disorders
CAN ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE BE PREVENTED?
At the moment, there is no proven way to avoid Alzheimer’s disease but scientific research is going on in this subject.
As of now it is believed that reducing the risk of heart disease can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Several factors that increase the risk of heart disease may also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Some such important factors are —
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
HOW IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE DIAGNOSED?
Doctors cannot definitively diagnose Alzheimer’s disease before death because after death they can examine the brain closely with a microscope but they can test other conditions that may have symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease. These tests are —
Health History Check:
Your doctor will do a physical examination of you and ask questions about your past and present health; such as —
- Any trouble with your symptoms and daily activities
- Other medical problems now or before
- The medicines you take
- Your personal history, such as your marital status, living conditions, employment, sexual history and important life events
- Your mental state. The doctor will ask you many questions that will help them understand if you are having any mental health problems, such as depression
- Family history and any genetic disease in the family.
This is a short test that tests your problem solving skills, attention span, counting skills and memory etc.
These tests will help your doctor know if there are problems with the parts involved in your brain’s learning, memory, thinking, or planning skills.
In CT scan, a machine takes X-rays of your body in many different ways over a very short period of time and a computer converts the scanned images into series. CT scans may show normal brain changes in later stages of Alzheimer’s.
MRI makes very clear pictures of your body using a large magnet, radio waves and computer and helps doctors see if a tumor or stroke is causing Alzheimer’s symptoms. It can also help show brain changes associated with the disease.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease but some medications can help with cognitive and behavioral symptoms.
WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Alzheimer’s disease can cause problems related to memory and language. A person with Alzheimer’s disease is not able to —
- Express pain
- Express other disease symptoms
- Following prescribed treatment plan
- Identifying and describing the side effects of the drug
As Alzheimer’s disease progresses to its final stages, brain changes begin to affect bodily functions; such as problems with swallowing, balance, and bowel and bladder control.
Other complications include —
- Pneumonia and other infections — People with Alzheimer’s often carry food or fluids in their airways and lungs due to difficulty swallowing which can cause pneumonia
- Being unable to empty the bladder may require the placement of a tube to remove and collect urine, increasing the risk of urinary tract infections, which can be more severe and even fatal
- People with Alzheimer’s become weak and have an increased risk of falls.