Learn About Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia. Dementia is a collection of symptoms and disorders that involve loss of memory and other thinking and intellectual abilities. Dementia is not a specific disorder, but refers to symptoms caused by a number of underlying diseases. Alzheimers disease accounts for 60%-80% of all cases of dementia. Alzheimers disease is a progressive illness caused by damage to the brain that leads to the death of brain cells. The progressive loss of brain cells results in memory loss, changes in thinking, personality alterations, and behavioral problems, among other difficulties. Alzheimers disease usually develops over time and gradually worsens. As the disease progresses, increased support will be required for the people with Alzheimers. In the late stages, help with all daily activities will be necessary.
While some common symptoms of Alzheimers disease exist, it is important to understand that everyone experiences the illness in different ways. While no cure for Alzheimers currently exists, medications have been developed that can temporarily relieve some of the symptoms or slow the progression of memory loss in many people. Some medications can stabilize an individuals symptoms for a year or longer.
Typical Early Symptoms Of Alzheimers May Include:
- Memory problems like regularly forgetting recent events, names and faces.
- Becoming increasingly repetitive, e.g. repeating questions after a very short interval or repeating behaviours and routines.
- Regularly misplacing items or putting them in odd places.
- Confusion about the date or time of day.
- People may be unsure of their whereabouts or get lost, particularly in unfamiliar places.
- Problems communicating or finding the right words.
- Some people become low in mood, anxious or irritable. Others may lose self-confidence or show less interest in whats happening around them.
The Basics Of Alzheimers Disease
Scientists are conducting studies to learn more about plaques, tangles, and other biological features of Alzheimers disease. Advances in brain imaging techniques allow researchers to see the development and spread of abnormal amyloid and tau proteins in the living brain, as well as changes in brain structure and function. Scientists are also exploring the very earliest steps in the disease process by studying changes in the brain and body fluids that can be detected years before Alzheimers symptoms appear. Findings from these studies will help in understanding the causes of Alzheimers and make diagnosis easier.
One of the great mysteries of Alzheimers disease is why it largely affects older adults. Research on normal brain aging is exploring this question. For example, scientists are learning how age-related changes in the brain may harm neurons and affect other types of brain cells to contribute to Alzheimers damage. These age-related changes include atrophy of certain parts of the brain, inflammation, blood vessel damage, production of unstable molecules called free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction .
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Stages Of Alzheimer Disease
The stages of Alzheimer disease usually follow a progressive pattern. But each person moves through the disease stages in his or her own way. Knowing these stages helps healthcare providers and family members make decisions about how to care for someone who has Alzheimer disease.
Preclinical stage. Changes in the brain begin years before a person shows any signs of the disease. This time period is called preclinical Alzheimer disease and it can last for years.
Mild, early stage. Symptoms at this stage include mild forgetfulness. This may seem like the mild forgetfulness that often comes with aging. But it may also include problems with concentration.
A person may still live independently at this stage, but may have problems:
Remembering a name
The person may be aware of memory lapses and their friends, family or neighbors may also notice these difficulties.
Moderate, middle stage. This is typically the longest stage, usually lasting many years. At this stage, symptoms include:
Increasing trouble remembering events
Problems learning new things
Trouble with planning complicated events, like a dinner
Trouble remembering their own name, but not details about their own life, such as address and phone number
Problems with reading, writing, and working with numbers
As the disease progresses, the person may:
Physical changes may occur as well. Some people have sleep problems. Wandering away from home is often a concern.
Supportive Measures And Treatments
In addition to medication, treatment for Alzheimer’s disease involves a wide range of other measures and treatments to help people with dementia live as independently as possible.
For example, an occupational therapist can identify problems or unsafe areas in your everyday life and help you to develop strategies or use alternative tools to manage these. They may suggest:
- ways of prompting and reminding yourself of important tasks such as using diaries or calendars
- assistive technology devices or systems to help maintain the independence and safety of people living with dementia
- adding grab bars and handrails to your home to help you move around safely
- other professionals visiting you at home and assisting with daily tasks to maintain your independence in the community
Psychological treatments, such as cognitive stimulation, may be offered to help improve your memory, problem solving skills and language ability.
Medication, other psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy , music and art therapy, reminiscence and relaxation therapies may also be offered. These may help with managing depression, anxiety, agitation, hallucinations, delusions and challenging behaviour that can occur with Alzheimer’s disease.
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The Seven Stages Of Dementia
One of the most difficult things to hear about dementia is that, in most cases, dementia is irreversible and incurable. However, with an early diagnosis and proper care, the progression of some forms of dementia can be managed and slowed down. The cognitive decline that accompanies dementia conditions does not happen all at once the progression of dementia can be divided into seven distinct, identifiable stages.
Learning about the stages of dementia can help with identifying signs and symptoms early on, as well as assisting sufferers and caretakers in knowing what to expect in further stages. The earlier dementia is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start.
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Loss Of Neural Circuits And Brain Plasticity
refers to the brain’s ability to change structure and function. This ties into the common phrase, “if you don’t use it, you lose it,” which is another way of saying, if you don’t use it, your brain will devote less somatotopic space for it. One proposed mechanism for the observed age-related plasticity deficits in animals is the result of age-induced alterations in calcium regulation. The changes in our abilities to handle calcium will ultimately influence neuronal firing and the ability to propagate , which in turn would affect the ability of the brain to alter its structure or function . Due to the complexity of the brain, with all of its structures and functions, it is logical to assume that some areas would be more vulnerable to aging than others. Two circuits worth mentioning here are the and neocortical circuits. It has been suggested that age-related cognitive decline is due in part not to neuronal death but to synaptic alterations. Evidence in support of this idea from animal work has also suggested that this cognitive deficit is due to functional and factors such as changes in enzymatic activity, chemical messengers, or gene expression in cortical circuits.
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Neurofibrillary Tangles And Senile Plaques
Plaques are dense, mostly insoluble deposits of protein and cellular material outside and around the neurons. Plaques are made of beta-amyloid , a protein fragment snipped from a larger protein called amyloid precursor protein . These fragments clump together and are mixed with other molecules, neurons, and non-nerve cells .
In AD, plaques develop in the hippocampus, a structure deep in the brain that helps to encode memories, and in other areas of the cerebral cortex that are used in thinking and making decisions. Plaques may begin to develop as early as the fifth decade of life. Whether Ab plaques themselves cause AD or whether they are a by-product of the AD process is still unknown. It is known that changes in APP structure can cause a rare, inherited form of AD.
Tangles are insoluble twisted fibers that build up inside the nerve cell. Although many older people develop some plaques and tangles, the brains of people with AD have them to a greater extent, especially in certain regions of the brain that are important in memory. There are likely to be significant age-related differences in the extent to which the presence of plaques and tangles are indicative of the presence of dementia.
SPs also accumulate primarily in association cortices and in the hippocampus. Plaques and tangles have relatively discrete and stereotypical patterns of laminar distribution in the cerebral cortex, which indicate predominant involvement of corticocortical connections.
Ps1 And Ps2 Mutations
Approximately 50-70% of early-onset autosomal-dominant AD cases appear to be associated with a locus mapped by genetic linkage to the long arm of chromosome 14 . Numerous missense mutations have been identified on a strong candidate gene, called PS1.
At the same time, another autosomal dominant locus responsible for early-onset AD was localized to chromosome 1. Two mutations were identified on the candidate gene, designated PS2. The physiological role of presenilins and the pathogenic effects of their mutations are not yet well understood.
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New Problems With Words In Speaking Or Writing
People with Alzheimers may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word, or call things by the wrong name . Whats typical? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
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Which Medicines Are Used To Treat Alzheimers Disease
There is no cure for Alzheimers disease, but available medications temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and help with behavioral problems that may appear during the course of the disease.
Four medications representing two drug classes are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the symptoms of Alzheimers disease. These drugs are the cholinesterase inhibitors and a NMDA antagonist.
Cholinesterase inhibitors. The cholinesterase inhibitors are all approved to treat the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease . Cholinesterase inhibitors include:
These drugs work by blocking the action of acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme responsible for destroying acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is one of the chemicals that helps nerve cells communicate. Researchers believe that reduced levels of acetylcholine cause some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. By blocking the enzyme, these medications increase the concentration of acetylcholine in the brain. This increase is believed to help improve some memory problems and reduce some of the behavioral symptoms seen in patients with Alzheimers disease.
These medications do not cure Alzheimers disease or stop the progression of the disease. The most common side effects of these drugs are nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some people may have loss of appetite, insomnia or bad dreams.
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Yes You Get It Right Alzheimers May Be The Cause
Although there are plenty of other conditions affecting memory, Alzheimers is the most common one, especially in the elderly.
In an effort to raise awareness about this condition, this World Alzheimers Day, we bring the details for uncovering the signs of Alzheimer affecting your mental sharpness or maybe your loved ones.
Support For Family And Friends
Currently, many people living with Alzheimers disease are cared for at home by family members. Caregiving can have positive aspects for the caregiver as well as the person being cared for. It may bring personal fulfillment to the caregiver, such as satisfaction from helping a family member or friend, and lead to the development of new skills and improved family relationships.
Although most people willingly provide care to their loved ones and friends, caring for a person with Alzheimers disease at home can be a difficult task and may become overwhelming at times. Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior. As the disease gets worse, people living with Alzheimers disease often need more intensive care.
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Health Environmental And Lifestyle Factors
Research suggests that a host of factors beyond genetics may play a role in the development and course of Alzheimers. There is a great deal of interest, for example, in the relationship between cognitive decline and vascular conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Ongoing research will help us understand whether and how reducing risk factors for these conditions may also reduce the risk of Alzheimers.
A nutritious diet, physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits have all been associated with helping people stay healthy as they age. These factors might also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimers. Researchers are testing some of these possibilities in clinical trials.
Recognizing The 10 Warning Signs Of Alzheimers Disease
Most of us have heard of Alzheimers before. Yet myths surrounding this disease still abound. Do you think you would be able to detect the signs of Alzheimers in yourself or a loved one?
While there is currently no treatment, early detection allows those affected to get the care, support and medications they need to better manage the disease early detection also gives them more time to make the various legal, financial and medical decisions that are required.
Since family members are usually the first ones to notice changes in a loved ones behaviour, it is important for all of us to be informed about Alzheimers disease.
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Medications To Treat The Underlying Alzheimer’s Disease Process
Aducanumab is the first disease-modifying therapy approved by the FDA to treat Alzheimers disease. The medication helps to reduce amyloid deposits in the brain and may help slow the progression of Alzheimers, although it has not yet been shown to affect clinical outcomes such as progression of cognitive decline or dementia. A doctor or specialist will likely perform tests, such as a PET scan or analysis of cerebrospinal fluid, to look for evidence of amyloid plaques and help decide if the treatment is right for the patient.
Aducanumab was approved through the FDAs Accelerated Approval Program. This process requires an additional study after approval to confirm the anticipated clinical benefit. If the follow-up trial fails to verify clinical benefit, the FDA may withdraw approval of the drug. Results of the phase 4 clinical trial for aducanumab are expected to be available by early 2030.
Several other disease-modifying medications are being tested in people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimers as potential treatments.
Effects Of Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is not a curable condition and progressively worsens over time. The long-term effects of Alzheimers disease can be devastating to both loved ones and the individual. Some of the long-term effects of Alzheimers disease include:
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
- Inability to communicate symptoms of illnesses
- Difficulty swallowing
- Increased vulnerability to developing pneumonia and other infections
- Injuries due to falling
- Difficulty controlling bowel and bladder functioning
- A sense of loss of self
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Who Has Alzheimers Disease
- In 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimers disease.1
- Younger people may get Alzheimers disease, but it is less common.
- The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.
- This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
- Symptoms of the disease can first appear after age 60, and the risk increases with age.
Withdrawal From Usual Activities
Apathy, lack of interest, and withdrawal from people and activities around you can be indicative of early dementia.
Examples include no longer following a favorite sports team, being apathetic about spending time with treasured grandchildren, giving up knitting or woodworking, and skipping the monthly get-togethers with good friends.
What its not: Needing a longer break between activities or occasionally feeling overloaded with obligations.
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Thinning Of The Cortex
Advances in MRI technology have provided the ability to see the brain structure in great detail in an easy, non-invasive manner in vivo. Bartzokis et al., has noted that there is a decrease in volume between adulthood and old age, whereas volume was found to increase from age 19â40, and decline after this age. Studies using have identified areas such as the and superior parietal gyri as being especially vulnerable to age-related losses in grey matter of older adults. Sowell et al., reported that the first 6 decades of an individual’s life were correlated with the most rapid decreases in grey matter density, and this occurred over dorsal, frontal, and on both interhemispheric and lateral brain surfaces. It is also worth noting that areas such as the , and surrounding the appear exempt from this decrease in grey matter density over time. Age effects on grey matter density in the posterior temporal cortex appear more predominantly in the left versus right hemisphere, and were confined to posterior language cortices. Certain language functions such as word retrieval and production were found to be located to more anterior language cortices, and deteriorate as a function of age. Sowell et al., also reported that these anterior language cortices were found to mature and decline earlier than the more posterior language cortices. It has also been found that the width of not only increases with age, but also with cognitive decline in the elderly.
Conditions With Symptoms Similar To Dementia
Remember that many conditions have symptoms similar to dementia, so it is important not to assume that someone has dementia just because some of the above symptoms are present. Strokes, depression, excessive long-term alcohol consumption, infections, hormonal disorders, nutritional deficiencies and brain tumours can all cause dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions can be treated.
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