Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases worldwide. It is a neurological disorder with a progressive nature of symptoms mainly characterised by memory loss, eventually leading to death. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in the world.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s denotes a group of progressive neurological disorders affecting the brain cells and their production. Our body produces and utilises neurons (brain cells) orderly. But when there is a disruption in this order, neurons are not made, and the present ones start dying. Individuals above 65 – both male and female – can have this disease. Alzheimer’s progresses from the stage of no impairment to the location of severe impairment.
- No impairment: People cannot notice any significant signs or symptoms at this stage. Brain changes take years or months before symptoms develop, so testing is the only way to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease during this stage.
- Very Mild impairment: You can see a few signs at this stage. The primary symptom is the inability to remember certain things around the individual but is entirely independent in all activities.
- Mild impairment: Symptoms are seen and experienced by the affected individual. The person might repeat sentences, have difficulty remembering names and addresses, and require help navigating the community.
- Moderate impairment: You would notice significant symptoms during this stage with increasing dependence on family members for daily activities. In this case, thinking, reasoning, and planning are affected.
- Moderately severe impairment: In this stage, the symptoms hamper basic daily activities. There is moderate dependence.
- Severe impairment: In this stage, the individual cannot recognise family members and friends. A caregiver is required to attend to all needs.
- Very severe impairment: The person is bedridden and needs a caregiver for all activities. There is no awareness of the surroundings as well as himself.
What Are The Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease?
The primary symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include issues with one’s ability to remember significant events in the initial phase, progressing to complete dependence on a caregiver for all activities.
- Loss of memory: Dementia is the primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. It may start with the inability to remember recent events (short-term) and may progress to the inability to remember long-term events and perform daily activities.
- Comprehension: Comprehension is the ability to understand spoken and written language and respond appropriately. Patients experience a reduced – or even absent – rate of comprehension in Alzheimer’s.
- Planning, reasoning, and execution: Daily activities and being in the community require planning, reasoning, and execution of more minor activities to complete a more significant move. In the severe stages of Alzheimer’s, patients completely lose the ability to perform these.
- Difficulty in daily activities: Individuals with Alzheimer’s may face mild to severe impairment in daily activities due to reduced brain functioning.
- Changes in behaviour and personality: Inability to do activities may cause the person to become agitated, anxious, and develop depressive episodes in the long run.
What are the causes of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Scientists have found the cause of Alzheimer’s to be the formation of plaques or deposits of amyloid and tangles or tau of nerve cells that cause death or loss of brain cells. Brain cells help connect and transmit information. Loss of brain cells leaves our body unable to do any activity. It is a probable mechanism of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Research is still ongoing in this aspect.
How is Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosed?
Doctors conduct a wide array of tests to determine the cause of cognitive (brain functioning) impairment in an individual suffering from progressive memory loss and difficulty in daily activities. These include a brain scan, blood tests, an Electro-Encephalogram (E.E.G.), heart and lung function tests, and the most crucial mental status examination. A mental status examination consists of questions that need to be answered by the person and has to perform specific tasks in an allotted time. Scores above a particular range confirm the presence of brain functioning impairment and loss of memory.
What is the treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease?
The complexity of Alzheimer’s disease has made it a research topic for several decades. It has no known cure today; managing Alzheimer’s consists of working symptoms by delaying the disease’s progress. Medicines aim to prevent the death of brain cells, thereby maintaining the function of the brain. Drugs like donepezil have started to improve function in such patients.
Physiotherapy, nursing assistance, occupational therapy, and hospice care help individuals carry out daily activities.
Who gets Alzheimer’s Disease?
Certain nonmodifiable factors predispose an individual towards Alzheimer’s, and one cannot change them. These include:
- Age: People above 65 are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
- Gender: Females are more prone to Alzheimer’s than males.
- Genetic predisposition: Gene mutations and faulty genes may initiate the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain leading to Alzheimer’s.
Certain modifiable factors also can lead an individual toward Alzheimer’s. These can be changed and worked upon in most individuals.
- Unhealthy Lifestyle
- Cigarette smoking
- Medical conditions like diabetes and obesity.
- Lack of physical activity
Alzheimer’s disease is a complex neurological disorder due to the progressive loss of brain cells. Dementia is the most common symptom, along with issues with comprehension, language, thinking, logical reasoning, planning, and execution of tasks—the stages of Alzheimer’s disease range from no impairment to very severe impairment. Management consists of medicines to relieve symptoms and maintain functional abilities.