Alzheimer’s disease is a brain condition in which the death of brain cells causes loss of memory and cognitive abilities.
It is the most common type of dementia, accounting for about 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases in the United States.
It usually affects people 65 and older, and only 10% of confirmed cases occur in young people.
This article provides an overview of Alzheimer’s disease, including symptoms, causes, and possible treatments.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that infect brain. Symptoms are light at first and worsen in time. It is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer was first described the disease in 1906.
One of the main symptoms of the disease is the presence of plaques and tangles in the brain. Another factor is the loss of connections between nerve cells or neurons in the brain.
These properties mean that information cannot be easily transmitted between different brain regions or between the brain and muscles or organs.
As symptoms worsen, it becomes more difficult for people to remember recent events, remember familiar people, and recognize them. Over time, a person with Alzheimer’s may need constant care.
According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. However, other recent estimates suggest it could be the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, meaning that symptoms get worse over time. Memory loss is an important factor and is usually one of the first symptoms.
Symptoms appear gradually, over months or years. If it lasts for hours or days, the person may need medical attention, as it may indicate a stroke.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:
Memory loss: A person may have difficulty learning and remembering new information. May be:
- Repeat questions or conversations
- things to lose
- Forget events or meetings
- Go or get lost
Cognitive impairments: A person may have difficulty with logic, complex tasks and decisions. May be:
- Lack of knowledge about safety and risks
- Problem with money or payment
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty performing multi-level tasks such as dressing
Recognition difficulties: A person may have difficulty recognizing faces or objects or using basic tools. These problems are not caused by vision problems.
Spatial problems: A person may have problems with balance, a tendency to fall or trip over objects, or have difficulty aligning clothes to the body when sewing clothes.
Language, reading or writing problems: The person may have difficulty understanding common words or make more spelling, writing or spelling mistakes.
Personality or behavior changes: A person may experience personality and behavior changes that include:
- You feel anxious, angry or worried more often than before
- Loss of interest or motivation in activities that are normally enjoyed
- Loss of compassion
- Compulsive, obsessive or socially inappropriate behaviour
In 2016, researchers published findings that a change in a person’s sense of humor may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease can range from moderate to severe. The scale ranges from mild to moderate impairment before finally reaching severe cognitive impairment.
The following section discusses the stages of Alzheimer’s disease and some of the symptoms it presents with.
A mild form of Alzheimer’s disease
People with mild Alzheimer’s experience memory and cognitive problems, which may include:
It takes more time than usual to complete everyday tasks
Difficulty paying fees or taxes
Move and disappear
Noticing changes in personality or behavior, such as getting angry or upset easily, hiding things, or walking faster
Moderate Alzheimer’s disease
In mild Alzheimer’s disease, areas of the brain responsible for language, emotion, reasoning and cognition weaken. This can cause the following symptoms:
- Severe memory loss and confusion
- Difficulty recognizing friends or family
- Inability to learn new things
- Difficulty performing multi-step tasks such as dressing
- It is difficult to cope with new circumstances
- Sensitive behavior
- Delirium, delusion or paranoia
Severe Alzheimer’s disease
In advanced Alzheimer’s disease, plaque and debris are found throughout the brain, causing severe shrinkage of brain tissue. This can cause:
- Inability to communicate
- caring attitude
- Inability to get out of bed all or most of the time
Early Alzheimer’s disease
While age is a major risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease, the disease does not only affect the elderly.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 200,000 American adults have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Until the age of 65. Most people with this disease are between the ages of 40 and 50.
In many cases, doctors do not know why this condition occurs in young people. Some abnormal genes can cause this condition. If it has a genetic cause, it is called familial Alzheimer’s disease.
There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Brain cell death is irreversible.
However, treatment can relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life for the person, family and caregivers.
The main components of dementia treatment are:
- Effective treatment for all Alzheimer’s conditions
- Activities and daycare programs
- Participation in support and service groups
The following sections discuss medications and behavioral therapy.
Aid for cognitive symptoms
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but some options can ease symptoms and improve quality of life.
Cholinesterase inhibitors are known to reduce cognitive symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, changes in cognitive processes, and problems with judgment. It improves neurotransmission through the brain and slows the progression of these symptoms.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three common medications to treat these symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease:
Donepezil (Aricept) to treat all stages
Galantamine (Razadin) for mild to moderate episodes.
Rivastigmine (Exelon) for the treatment of light to moderate disease.
One drug, memantine (Namenda), is approved to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease
Emotional and behavioral therapy
Managing the emotional and behavioral changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging. People may experience irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, sleep problems and other difficulties.
It may be useful to examine the roots of these changes. There may be side effects of certain medications, discomfort caused by other medical conditions, or hearing or vision problems.
Identifying the cause of the behavior and avoiding or changing it can help people cope with change. Triggers may include environmental changes, new caregivers, or requests to bathe or change.
It is often possible to change the environment to remove obstacles and increase human comfort, safety and tranquility.
The Alzheimer’s Association provides a list of helpful tips for caregivers.
In some cases, doctors may recommend medications to treat these symptoms, such as:
- Antidepressants for bad mood
- A stress reducer
- Antipsychotics for hallucinations, delusions and aggression
Like all forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease develops as a result of brain cell death. It is a neurodegenerative condition in which brain cells die over time.
A person with Alzheimer’s disease has fewer neurons and connections in their brain tissue, and small deposits known as plaques and tangles form in the nerve tissue.
Plaques form on dying brain cells. It is composed of a protein known as beta-amyloid. On the other hand, the neurons inside work in error. It consists of another protein called tau.
Scientists do not fully know why these changes happened. Several factors may be involved.
The Alzheimer’s Association has created a visual aid that shows what happens during the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Some of the risk factors include:
- the older
- Family history of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Carriers of certain genes
Other factors that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease include severe or repeated brain injury and exposure to certain environmental pollutants such as toxic metals, pesticides and industrial chemicals.
Modifiable factors that help prevent Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Regular exercise
- Eat a varied and healthy diet
- To maintain cardiovascular health
- Maintenance of brain activity throughout life
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease. The accumulation of plaques and nodules in the brain with cell death leads to memory loss and cognitive impairment.
There is currently no cure, but medications and other treatments can help slow or reduce cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms and improve a person’s quality of life.