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Alzheimer's Disease

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease refers to a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes a significant degree of memory loss. Alzheimer's is a leading cause of dementia, which is usually prevalent in people above 60 years.

Dementia causes loss of cognitive functioning (learning, reasoning, remembering, problem-solving, decision-making, etc.) thus, affecting the quality of life. While Alzheimer’s is often confused with dementia.

Alzheimer’s often causes loss of brain cells which may cause gradual brain shrinkage. The brain size of patients in the final stages of dementia is observed to have shrunk by approximately 50% as compared to the normal brain. Therefore, people may find it extremely difficult to carry out their daily tasks at some point in their life.

Get in touch with a neurologist if you or an elder member of your family is experiencing Alzheimer's disease symptoms and get timely treatment.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease symptoms at an early stage may cause some degree of memory loss. However, as the condition deteriorates, the patients may lose the ability to carry out a conversation or may face issues with facial recognition and judgment. In some scenarios, people may forget their way home which can become a serious issue in severe cases. As the condition becomes severe, other symptoms may appear including:

  • Confusion and frustration, especially at night.
  • Trouble focusing and making everyday decisions.
  • A hard time doing ordinary activities due to a feeling of disorientation.
  • Dramatic mood swings include anxiety, personality changes, an outburst of anger, etc.
  • Hallucinations/delusions (seeing or hearing things that are not there).

What are the causes of Alzheimer's disease?

While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is under debate, the condition is usually common in older people. Therefore, a high risk of developing Alzheimer's is associated with age. Researchers also believe that there are two main reasons for Alzheimer's disease - the build-up of plaques (Beta-amyloid protein deposits) and tangles which are toxic cells that disrupt the transport system in the brain. In addition, there are other risk factors such as:

  • Family history
  • Genetics
  • Depression
  • History of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Traumatic brain injury.

How is Alzheimer's disease diagnosed?

Since Alzheimer’s disease symptoms progress slowly, it can be difficult to recognise the problem. Different stages of Alzheimer’s disease can worsen over time if left untreated. The primary approach for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis includes examining the family history and different tests that can identify the condition.

The doctor will gather information from your end like symptoms, family medical history, any current or past health conditions, ongoing medications, diet, alcohol intake, other lifestyle habits, etc.

Furthermore, the doctor may recommend tests like mental status tests to provide memory testing scores for Alzheimer's disease. This can help assess your short-term memory and long-term memory.

The doctor may also suggest standard medical tests like:

  • Imaging tests like MRI, CT scan & PET (positron emission tomography) of the brain to identify the cause of the problem.
  • Blood Tests to check for genes that may indicate a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Urine Test can help look for any bacteria or viruses in the body.

What is Alzheimer's disease treatment?

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, doctors often prescribe medications and psychological treatment therapies to manage your symptoms and delay the progression of the disease. These medications can help improve memory symptoms and other cognitive changes.

There are mostly two types of medications that are widely used to treat cognitive symptoms - Cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine.

Cholinesterase inhibitors can improve symptoms such as agitation or depression. These include donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine. However, there may be some side effects associated with this medicine which include diarrhoea, nausea, loss of appetite and sleep disturbances and in severe cases may even cause cardiac arrhythmia.

On the other hand, Memantine works on brain cell communication networks and blocks the effects of excess glutamate (brain chemical released in higher amounts in Alzheimer’s disease).

This medicine is helpful in managing mild to moderate symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

In addition, the doctor may also suggest lifestyle modifications that can help you manage your symptoms. It is also important for people to be empathetic and patient toward individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The doctor may recommend the following strategies to help you or your loved ones:

  • Simplifying tasks
  • Limiting confusion
  • Resting enough daily
  • Using relaxation techniques and creating a calming environment

Several psychological treatments like cognitive stimulation therapy are considered effective in offering help to patients with mild to moderate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

These therapies can help improve memory, problem-solving skills, and language ability. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor to treat the condition before it gets severe.


What are the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease?

Different stages of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Stage 1-3 (Pre-dementia and mild cognitive impairment
  • Stage 1 - No symptoms
  • Stage 2 - initial symptoms such as forgetfulness appears
  • Stage 3 - Mild symptoms like reduced memory, concentration, learning difficulty
  • Stage 4-7 (Dementia)
  • Stage 4 - Most cases of Alzheimer’s disease are diagnosed at this stage. Includes mild symptoms of memory loss and difficulty managing everyday tasks.
  • Stage 5 - Moderate to severe symptoms that can hinder everyday activities.
  • Stage 6 - Patients require help with basic tasks like eating, dressing, etc.
  • Stage 7 - Severe or final stage which can lead to loss of speech and facial recognition.

How can I prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

Since the cause of the disease is unknown, preventing Alzheimer’s disease can be next to impossible. However, there are some measures that can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Stop smoking and consuming alcohol
  • Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet
  • Staying physically fit and mentally active

What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?

Dementia is a general term used for conditions that cause memory loss, confusion, etc. Dementia includes conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.

On the other hand, Alzheimer’s disease is a specific condition associated with the brain that often alters our thinking and reasoning skills.

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