What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a condition of the brain that was discovered in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer. This condition starts with mild symptoms before they become severe. The most common symptoms of this disease include unpredictable behavior, language problems, and memory loss. The main feature of this disease is the loss of connection between nerve cells in the brain. One may also have tangles and plagues in the brain. As Alzheimer’s disease worsens, people find it hard to remember recent events. One may even fail to recognize people he/she has lived with.
Alzheimer’s disease is currently the 6th cause of death in the United States according to the National Institute on Aging. Other research institutes claim that it is the third cause of death behind cancer and heart disease.
Alzheimer develops because of the death of brain cells. The cells die over some time. As the cells begin dying, plaques start developing between the cells. In the meantime, tangles start occurring between nerve cells.
Alzheimer cases increase because of age, historical cases of Alzheimer's disease in the family, and genetic issues. Its possibility can also be increased by brain injuries as well as exposure to certain industrial chemicals.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive condition of the brain, it starts with a mild stage and the condition worsens with time. The main symptoms of the disease include:
- Memory loss – a person suffering from this disease find it difficult to remember information. In many cases, you find one repeating questions, getting lost or wandering, and even losing things.
- Recognition problem – One becomes unable to recognize objects, faces, and other common things and people.
- Cognitive problems – One may have reasoning issues, judgment, and completing hard tasks. This leads to one no understanding risks, having problems when making payments, and having a hard time when making decisions.
Stages of Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease has three main stages which include:
This is the first stage of the disease. At this stage, people start developing cognitive difficulties and memory problems. It includes taking longer to complete tasks, having a hard time handling money, getting lost behavioral changes, and personality changes.
At the moderate stage, several parts of the brain such as the parts responsible for senses, language, consciousness, and reasoning are damaged. This leads to higher memory loss, inability to recognize family, confusion, inability to know or learn new things, hallucinations, impulsive behavior, and difficulty in performing obvious tasks such as dressing or eating.
This is the last and most dangerous stage of Alzheimer's disease. In this stage, tangles and plaques are regular causing the brain to shrink. In this stage, one is unable to communicate, depends on others, finds it hard to leave the bed, and cannot perform even the least tasks.
Diagnosis of the Alzheimer disease
During diagnosis, doctors will perform tests such as:
- Memory and cognitive tests to check whether one can remember or think.
- Urine and blood tests
- Generic tests
- MRI or CT scans of the brain
- Testing of the patient’s balance, flexes, and senses, and the general neurological functions.
Alzheimer's disease has no known cure because it is hard to reverse dead brain cells. What doctors do is work on relieving the symptoms of the disease. During treatment, the following elements are important:
- Continued activities and engaging programs
- Proper management of any condition occurring alongside the disease
At the moment there are also no drugs to cure Alzheimer's disease. However, cholinesterase inhibitors help in the easing of some symptoms such as memory loss. Currently, the only approved drugs to deal with the symptoms are donepezil, galantamine, and rivastigmine.
The hardest thing to manage in Alzheimer’s disease is the ability to manage emotional and behavioral changes. People experience difficulties such as irritability, depression, restlessness, anxiety, and sleep problems.