How Does Alzheimers Disease Affect The Brain
The brain typically shrinks to some degree in healthy aging but, surprisingly, does not lose neurons in large numbers. In Alzheimers disease, however, damage is widespread, as many neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die. Alzheimers disrupts processes vital to neurons and their networks, including communication, metabolism, and repair.
At first, Alzheimers disease typically destroys neurons and their connections in parts of the brain involved in memory, including the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus. It later affects areas in the cerebral cortex responsible for language, reasoning, and social behavior. Eventually, many other areas of the brain are damaged. Over time, a person with Alzheimers gradually loses his or her ability to live and function independently. Ultimately, the disease is fatal.
Conditions That Cause Symptoms Similar To Dementia
A number of conditions have symptoms similar to those of dementia. In many cases, treatment of these conditions means that the symptoms will often disappear. These conditions include:
- brain tumour.
It is essential to get an early medical diagnosis, when symptoms first appear, to ensure that a person who has a treatable condition is diagnosed and treated correctly.
Treatments For Vascular Dementia
There’s currently no cure for vascular dementia and there’s no way to reverse any loss of brain cells that happened before the condition was diagnosed.
But treatment can sometimes help slow down vascular dementia.
Treatment aims to tackle the underlying cause, which may reduce the speed at which brain cells are lost.
This will often involve:
- taking medicines, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, lower cholesterol or prevent blood clots
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What Are The Signs Of Cns Problems
Some neurologic problems require urgent medical attention. If you have serious headaches, especially with a fever, stiff neck, vomiting, or vision problems, or if you develop new weakness or loss of feeling, you should see your health care provider immediately.
The main symptoms of nervous system problems are with thinking, behavior, and movement.
- Thinking: memory loss, trouble concentrating, mental slowing, trouble understanding. This can include forgetting telephone numbers that you use a lot, having trouble with simple math like making change at the store, People with CNS problems may have difficulty taking their medications on schedule
- Behavior: Depression, agitation, lack of caring, irritability
- Movement: Balance problems, unsteady walking, slower movement, poor coordination, tremor
A physical examination may show reduced reflexes in the ankles, especially when compared to reflexes in the knees.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging a radiologic procedure, may show abnormalities in brain tissue.
What Can I Expect If I Or My Loved One Have A Diagnosis Of Lewy Body Dementia
Each persons experience with Lewy body dementia is unique to them. How slowly or quickly the disease progresses is impossible to know, but may be influenced by your general health and any existing diseases you may have. Because LBD is a progressive disease, difficulties with mind and body functions get worse over time. Currently, there is no known way to stop the progression of the disease. After diagnosis, most people with LBD live between five and seven years. Some people with LBD live up to 20 years after their diagnosis.
However, theres always hope. Research on LBD, dementia with lewy bodies, Alzheimers disease, Parkinsons disease with dementia are ongoing. New medications are being developed and new approaches to treatment are being investigated.
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Support Services For People With Dementia And Their Carers
A wide range of community services is available to help both the person with dementia and their carers. These include:
- support and information groups, for people in the early stages of dementia and their carers
- carer education and training programs
- books, videos and other resources
- counselling and practical advice, for individuals or family groups
- carer support groups
- respite care, including in-home, out-of-home and flexible care, such as holidays
- home care and Meals on Wheels
- aged care facilities.
- Your local community health centre
- National Dementia Helpline Dementia Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
- Aged Care Assessment Services Tel. 1300 135 090
- My Aged Care Tel. 1800 200 422
- Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinics Tel. 1300 135 090
- Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
- Commonwealth Carelink and Respite Centres Tel. 1800 059 059
- Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service Tel. 1800 699 799 for 24-hour telephone advice for carers and care workers
- Dementia statistics for Victoria, Alzheimers Australia.
- What is dementia?, 2012, Alzheimers Australia.
- Drug treatments and dementia, 2012, Alzheimers Australia.
- Genetics of dementia, 2012, Alzheimers Australia.
- How assessment works, myagedcare, Department of Health and Ageing. More information here.
Normal Memory Changes Vs Dementia Symptoms
Its something we all have to face but the inevitable changes of aging can still be both humbling and surprising. But while experiencing wrinkling skin, fading hair color, and mild, short-term memory loss is common as we age, severe and rapid memory loss is definitely NOT a part of normal aging. In fact, many people are able to preserve their brainpower as they get older by staying mentally and physically active and making other healthy lifestyle choices.
Differentiating the signs of dementia from normal aging can help to either set your mind at rest or encourage you to begin taking steps to slow the progression of symptoms. In broad terms, normal memory changes associated with aging dont significantly interfere with your ability to function in your daily life. These may include:
Slower thinking and problem solving The speed of learning slows down short-term memory takes longer to function reaction time increases.
More distractedness. All of the interruptions make learning more difficult.
Slower recall A greater need for hints to jog the memory.
Distinguishing between normal memory loss and dementia symptoms is not an exact science but there are some clues to look for:
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Managing Alzheimers Disease Behavior
Common behavioral symptoms of Alzheimers include sleeplessness, wandering, agitation, anxiety, and aggression. Scientists are learning why these symptoms occur and are studying new treatments drug and nondrug to manage them. Research has shown that treating behavioral symptoms can make people with Alzheimers more comfortable and makes things easier for caregivers.
How Is Blood Flow Linked To Alzheimers Disease
Rachel Harris is a PhD student with Prof Seth Love and Dr Shelley Allen at the University of Bristol. Shes interested in the role of blood flow in dementia.
In dementia, we know that what is good for the heart is good for the head and that keeping blood vessels healthy can help protect the brain and lower dementia risk. However, were yet to understand all the processes that link the vascular system and nerve cell health. Through my PhD, I hope to reveal more about the connection by studying a group of proteins which talk to both nerve cells and blood vessels.
Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia are the two leading causes of dementia. Sometimes Alzheimers disease is seen with vascular dementia part of whats known as mixed dementia. We think that Alzheimers disease, mixed dementia and vascular dementia are not always entirely separate diseases, but are on a spectrum. Researchers are working hard to understand more about the similarities and differences, as this will improve diagnosis and treatment.
Vascular disease which can often precede coronary heart disease or stroke and dementia, share common risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Some researchers also found evidence of direct links between Alzheimers disease and the vascular system.
Human brain tissue stained to look for the proteins were interested in they are expressed on brain support cells, blood vessels and nerve cells.
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How Does Alzheimers Affect You Physically
Alzheimers doesnt just affect a person mentally, it can also affect a person physically too. Some people may end up with physical problems before experiencing serious memory loss. It can affect the way a person walks and talks as well as the issues listed below :
- Loss of balance
- Shuffling or dragging feet when walking
- Trouble standing
- Trouble sitting in a chair
- Weak muscles
What Are Nervous System Problems
The nervous system has two parts. The brain and spinal cord are the central nervous system . The nerves and muscles are the peripheral nervous system.
People with HIV disease can have several problems with the nervous system. A common problem is peripheral neuropathy. This can cause damage to nerves controlling sensation. Symptoms may include altered sensation, numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness, especially in the feet and legs. See for more information. Central nervous system problems include depression and problems with sleeping, balance, walking, thinking, and memory.
In the early years of AIDS these were all called HIV-Associated Dementia. However, a broader range of problems is showing up at present. This is now called HIV-associated Neurological Disturbances , which includes less severe symptoms referred to as Minor Cognitive Motor Disorder.
Before combination antiretroviral therapy was available, about 20% of people with AIDS developed severe dementia. Strong antiretroviral medications have cut the rate of serious dementia. However, with longer survival, more people with AIDS are living with milder neurologic problems. These are estimated to affect 40% to 70% of people with HIV. This is true even if people are taking ART.
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Causes Of Alzheimer Disease
What causes Alzheimer disease is unknown, but genetic factors play a role: About 5 to 15% of cases run in families. Several specific gene abnormalities may be involved. Some of these abnormalities can be inherited when only one parent has the abnormal gene. That is, the abnormal gene is dominant. An affected parent has a 50% chance of passing on the abnormal gene to each child. About half of these children develop Alzheimer disease before age 65.
One gene abnormality affects apolipoprotein E the protein part of certain lipoproteins, which transport cholesterol through the bloodstream. There are three types of apo E:
Epsilon-4: People with the epsilon-4 type develop Alzheimer disease more commonly and at an earlier age than other people.
Epsilon-2: In contrast, people with the epsilon-2 type seem to be protected against Alzheimer disease.
Epsilon-3: People with the epsilon-3 type are neither protected nor more likely to develop the disease.
However, genetic testing for apo E type cannot determine whether a specific person will develop Alzheimer disease. Therefore, this testing is not routinely recommended.
Risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and smoking, can increase the risk of Alzheimer disease. Treating these risk factors as early as midlife can reduce the risk of mental decline in older age.
Concentration Planning And Organisation
The person may also develop increasing difficulties with other mental abilities, such as concentrating, planning and organising. For instance, they may only be able to carry out simple activities, or not be able to concentrate for too long. They may be increasingly disorientated and have difficulties recognising where they are. They may have a limited understanding of time.
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Dementia Vs Alzheimers Disease
Dementia and Alzheimers disease are not the same. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a collection of symptoms related to memory, language, and decision-making.
AD is the most common type of dementia. It causes difficulty with short-term memory, depression, disorientation, behavioral changes, and more.
Dementia causes symptoms such as forgetfulness or memory impairment, loss of sense of direction, confusion, and difficulty with personal care. The exact constellation of symptoms will depend on the type of dementia you have.
AD can also cause these symptoms, but other symptoms of AD may include depression, impaired judgment, and difficulty speaking.
Likewise, treatments for dementia depend on the type you have. However, AD treatments often overlap with other non-pharmacological dementia treatments.
In the case of some types of dementia, treating the underlying cause may be helpful in reducing or stopping the memory and behavior problems. However, that is not the case with AD.
Its absolutely normal to forget things once in a while. Memory loss by itself does not mean you have dementia. There is a difference between occasional forgetfulness and forgetfulness that is cause for serious concern.
Potential red flags for dementia include:
- forgetting who someone is
- forgetting how to do common tasks, such as how to use the telephone or find your way home
- inability to comprehend or retain information that has been clearly provided
What Is The Life Expectancy For Dementia Can It Be Cured
There is no cure for dementia.
- Although Alzheimer’s disease is listed as the 6th most common cause of death in the U.S.. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease most commonly die due to infections caused by lack of mobility.
- Pneumonia, bladder infections, bedsores, and other causes can lead to more wide-spread infection and subsequent death.
- Patients with dementias have widely varying life expectancies, depending on the underlying cause of their dementia. Life expectancy can range from only 1 to 2 years to more than 15 years the average duration of the disease is between 4 and 8 years after diagnosis.
How Is Alzheimers Different From Other Forms Of Dementia
Alzheimers disease is distinguished from other forms of dementia by characteristic changes in the brain that are visible only upon microscopic examination during autopsy. Brains affected by Alzheimers disease often show presence of the following:
Fiber tangles within nerve cells
Clusters of degenerating nerve endings
Another characteristic of Alzheimers disease is the reduced production of certain brain chemicals necessary for communication between nerve cells, especially acetylcholine, as well as norepinephrine, serotonin, and somatostatin.
More Information About Dementia
The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.
Alzheimer’s Association: This web site provides information about Alzheimer disease, including statistics, causes, risk factors, and symptoms. It also provides resources for support, including information about daily care of people with Alzheimer disease, care for the caregiver, and support groups.
The Alzheimer’s Society: This web site provides a guide to dementia , a guide for caregivers, and information about the types of dementia, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, risk factors, and prevention.
Dementia.org: This web site provides information about the causes, symptoms, treatments, and stages of dementia.
Health Direct: Dementia Video Series: These videos provide general information about dementia, recommendations about the warning signs of dementia, treatment and research, and caring for a person with dementia. The web site also provides links to articles on similar topics.
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Medications To Help Cognitive Problems In Dementia
Medications are available in Australia to help with the cognitive problems of dementia for people with Alzheimers disease. These medications might also be useful for people with vascular dementia or Lewy body disease.The two types of medications for cognitive dementia symptoms include:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors increase the levels of a chemical in the brain that is important for memory , which can help some people.
- Memantine blocks the action of another chemical in the brain , which can improve thinking problems in some people.
How Exactly Is Lewy Body Dementia Related To Alzheimers Disease And Parkinsons Disease
Lewy body dementia is a broad, general term for dementia in which lewy bodies are present in the brain. Dementia with lewy bodies and Parkinsons disease dementia are two related clinical disorders that make up the general broader category of Lewy body dementia. Sometimes LBD is first diagnosed as Parkinsons disease or Alzheimers disease based on its symptoms.
- Parkinsons disease dementia : You might be diagnosed with Parkinsons disease if you start out with a movement disorder typical to Parkinsons but then have your diagnosis changed to PDD when dementia symptoms develop.
- Alzheimers disease : You might start out with memory or cognitive disorder that leads to a diagnosis of AD. Over time, other distinctive symptoms begin to appear and your diagnosis is then changed to dementia with lewy bodies. Distinctive symptoms of LBD include the changes in attention, alertness and cognitive ability changes in walking and movement visual hallucinations REM sleep behavior disorder and severe sensitivity to some antipsychotics used to treat hallucinations.
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Causes Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
If you are detected with vitamin b12 deficiency you can get that treated at early stage itself. If this deficiency is due to dietary factors, then you can get it reversed by taking the vitamin B12 supplements or by consuming foods that are fortified with b12.If the deficiency is due to impaired absorption, then it is considered best to take Vitamin B12 injections instead of the supplement tablets as this method allows better absorption of the nutrients into the body tissues directly.
Vitamin B12 deficiency / vitamin b12 / b12 deficiency
What Do We Already Know
There is an increasing amount of evidence that the underlying mechanisms behind Alzheimers disease may begin years or even decades before symptoms start to show. Many researchers believe that treating those affected at the earliest stage possible will be the most effective way of slowing down the disease or stopping its progression.
The brains immune system has long been implicated as a key factor in the development of Alzheimers disease, particularly a specialised type of immune cell called microglia. The microglia help to clear debris and toxic materials from the brain. However, it appears that in Alzheimers they do not perform this function correctly or may even contribute directly to the disease process. One theory is that the Alzheimers hallmark amyloid protein activates the microglia, which perform their function properly at first but as more amyloid is produced the system becomes overwhelmed and unregulated. This leads to damage to brain cells.
Some trials for potential Alzheimers disease treatments have attempted to prevent the damaging immune response but so far results have been disappointing. This could be because the drugs are broadly targeting the whole immune system rather than just the faulty microglia.
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