What You Need to Know about Alzheimer’s disease?

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What You Need to Know about Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a neurological condition characterized by a decrease in cognitive abilities and memory due to the death of brain cells. There i

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Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition characterized by a decrease in cognitive abilities and memory due to the death of brain cells. There is currently no cure, but a person can be supported with medication and other methods.

It is the most prevalent form of dementia, accounting for 60–80 percent of cases in the United States.

Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5 million Americans. Estimates suggest that by 2060, this number will nearly triple in the United States.

The condition typically affects those aged 65 and older, with only 10% of cases occurring in those younger than this age group.

This article explains Alzheimer’s disease, including its symptoms, causes, and potential treatments.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain-affecting condition. The symptoms are initially modest and intensify over time. The disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who first described it in 1906.

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by memory loss, language difficulties, and impulsive or unpredictable behavior.

The presence of brain plaques and tangles is one of the condition’s defining characteristics. Another feature is a loss of connection between the nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain.

These characteristics impede the transmission of information between brain regions and between the brain and the muscles or organs.

As the symptoms worsen, it becomes more difficult for people to recall recent events, reason, and recognize familiar faces. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may eventually require full-time assistance.

The National Institute on Aging reports that Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of mortality in the United States. Other recent estimates indicate that it may be the third leading cause of mortality, just behind heart disease and cancer.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease get worse over time as the disease progresses. Memory loss is a critical characteristic, and it is typically one of the earliest symptoms to appear.

The symptoms emerge progressively over months or years. If they develop over hours or days, they may require medical attention, which could indicate a stroke.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

Memory loss: A person may have difficulty absorbing and recalling new information. This can result in:

    • repeating questions or conversations
    • losing objects
    • forgetting about events or appointments
    • wandering or getting lost

Cognitive deficits: A person may experience difficulty with reasoning, complex tasks, and judgment. This can lead to:

    • a reduced understanding of safety and risks
    • problem with money or paying bills
    • difficulty making decisions
    • difficulty completing tasks that have several stages, such as getting dressed

Problems with recognition: A person’s ability to discern faces or objects and use essential tools can decrease. Eye disorders do not cause these issues.

  • Problems with spatial awareness: A person may struggle with their balance, fall or spill things more frequently, or have difficulty orienting clothing to their body when dressing.
  • Problems with speaking, reading, or writing: A person may experience difficulty recalling common words or make more speech, penmanship, or reporting errors.

Personality or behavior changes: A person may experience changes in personality and behavior that include:

    • becoming upset, angry, or worried more often than before
    • a loss of interest in or motivation for activities they usually enjoy
    • a loss of empathy
    • compulsive, obsessive, or socially inappropriate behavior

Researchers published findings in 2016 suggesting a change in a person’s sense of humor may also be an early Alzheimer’s symptom.

Stages of Alzheimer’s disease:

The severity of Alzheimer’s disease ranges from mild to severe. The scale ranges from low cognitive decline to moderate cognitive decline and then to severe cognitive decline.

The following sections will examine the phases of Alzheimer’s and the symptoms that characterize them.

Mild Alzheimer’s disease

Persons with mild Alzheimer’s disease may experience the following memory loss and cognitive difficulties:

  • taking longer to complete everyday duties
  • difficulties managing money or paying debts
  • Wandering and getting lost
  • Changes in personality and behavior, such as increased anger, hiding things, or pacing

Moderate Alzheimer’s disease

The part of the brain responsible for language, senses, reasoning, and consciousness is damaged in moderate Alzheimer’s disease. This can result in the following symptoms:

  • greater memory loss and confusion
  • difficulty recognizing friends or family
  • an inability to learn new things
  • difficulty performing tasks with several stages, such as getting dressed
  • difficulty coping with new situations
  • impulsive behavior
  • hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia

Severe Alzheimer’s disease

Plaques and tangles are present throughout the brain in severe Alzheimer’s disease, causing the brain tissue to be damaged significantly. This can result in:

  • an inability to communicate
  • dependency on others for care
  • being unable to leave bed all or most of the time

Early onset Alzheimer’s disease

Although age is the primary risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, it does not only affect the elderly.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 200,000 U.S. adults under the age of 65, per the Alzheimer’s Association. Numerous individuals with this condition are in their 40s.

Physicians often do not understand why younger patients develop this condition. Multiple rare alleles can cause the disorder. Alzheimer’s disease with a genetic etiology is called familial Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease vs. dementia

What is dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term for various conditions characterized by a decline in cognitive ability.

Alzheimer’s is the most prevalent form of dementia. It involves the formation of plaques and tangles in the brain. The onset of symptoms is incremental and is likely to affect a decline in cognitive function and language skills.

 Other types of dementia

Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are additional forms of dementia. A person can have multiple forms of dementia.

Diagnosis

The condition known as Alzheimer’s is diagnosed when memory loss, cognitive decline, or behavioral changes interfere with a person’s ability to perform daily tasks.

Friends and family may observe dementia symptoms before the individual themselves.

No singular test exists for Alzheimer’s disease. Suppose a physician suspects the presence of the condition. In that case, he or she will inquire about the individual’s symptoms, experiences, and medical history and may also interview the individual’s family or caregivers.

The physician may also conduct the following procedures:

  • Cognitive and memory tests to assess the person’s ability to think and remember
  • Neurological function tests to test their balance, senses, and reflexes
  • Blood or urine tests
  • a CT scan or MRI scan of the brain
  • genetic testing

There are a variety of cognitive function evaluation instruments available.

Genetic testing may be warranted in certain instances, as dementia symptoms can be caused by an inherited condition such as Huntington’s disease.

Some variants of the APOE e4 gene are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Early testing for relevant genes could indicate a person’s likelihood of developing the disease. Nevertheless, the test is controversial, and the results are untrustworthy.

Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease

There is currently no known treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. It is not possible to reverse brain cell death.

However, treatments can alleviate its symptoms and enhance the quality of life for the individual, their family, and their caregivers.

The following are vital factors of care for people with dementia:

  • Proper management of circumstances alongside Alzheimer’s
  • activities and daycare programs.
  • support group and service involvement

Medications for cognitive symptoms

Alzheimer’s disease has no disease-modifying drugs, but some options may reduce symptoms and enhance quality of life.

Cholinesterase inhibitors can alleviate cognitive symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, altered thought processes, and problems with judgment. They enhance neural communication throughout the brain and retard the development of these symptoms.

Three prevalent medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat these symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are as follows:

  • donepezil (Aricept), to treat all stages
  • galantamine (Razadyne) to treat mild-to-moderate stages
  • rivastigmine (Exelon) to treat mild-to-moderate stages

Memantine (Namenda) is an FDA-approved treatment for moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s disease. Also available is a combination of memantine and donepezil (Namzaric).

Emotion and behavior treatments

Managing the emotional and behavioral changes associated with Alzheimer’s can be difficult. People may experience an increase in irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and sleep difficulties, among other difficulties.

Treating these changes’ underlying causes can be beneficial. Some may be medication adverse effects, discomfort from other medical conditions, or hearing or vision problems.

Identifying the causes of these behaviors and averting or altering them can help individuals adjust to the changes. Changes in the environment, new caregivers, or requests to bathe or change clothing may be triggers.

It is often possible to alter the environment to resolve obstacles and boost the person’s comfort, security, and peace of mind.

The Alzheimer’s Association provides caregivers with a list of coping strategies.

In certain instances, a physician may prescribe medications such as:

  • antidepressants for low mood
  • antianxiety drugs
  • antipsychotic drugs for hallucinations, delusions, or aggression

Causes

Alzheimer’s disease, like other forms of dementia, is caused by the demise of brain cells. It is a neurodegenerative disorder, which means brain cell death occurs gradually.

In Alzheimer’s disease, the brain tissue contains fewer and fewer nerve cells and connections, and microscopic plaques and tangles accumulate on the nerve tissue.

Plaques form between brain cells that are decaying. They are composed of the protein beta-amyloid. Meanwhile, the tangles exist within the nerve cells. They are composed of a different protein termed tau.

Researchers do not entirely comprehend the causes of these changes. Multiple variables may be implicated.

The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a visual guide to illustrate the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Risk Factors

Unavoidable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • aging
  • having a family history of Alzheimer’s disease
  • carrying certain genes

Other risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include exposure to environmental contaminants such as toxic metals, pesticides, and industrial chemicals, as well as severe or repetitive traumatic brain injuries.

The following modifiable factors may help prevent Alzheimer’s:

  • getting regular exercise
  • following a varied and healthful diet
  • maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system
  • Managing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure
  • keeping the brain active throughout life

Conclusion

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of neurodegeneration. In addition to cell death, forming plaques and tangles in the brain causes memory loss and cognitive decline.

There is currently no cure, but medications and other treatments can help delay or alleviate cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms, enhancing the patient’s quality of life.

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