What is Alzheimer's?
Alzheimerâ€™s disease is a progressive brain disorder that results in the nerve cells found in the brain to die causing the gradual loss of memory, ability to reason, make judgments, communicate, and carry out daily activities. At the present, there are no cures for Alzheimerâ€™s, but some methods of treatment have been proven to improve the quality of life for the patient. Alzheimer's disease can advance at a variety of rates, from 3 years to 20 years, and is currently the leading cause of dementia.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's?
Symptoms of Alzheimer's may include:
Impaired memory and thinking â€“ The person may have trouble remembering things or learning any new information. During the later stages, long term memory loss occurs.
Disorientation and confusion â€“ Those with Alzheimer's may become lost, even in familiar places, and may not know how they got to where they are. They may not recognize faces, such as those of family members.
Misplacing Things â€“ A person with Alzheimer's may forget where he or she has put everyday items like glasses and their house keys.
Abstract Thinking â€“ Those with Alzheimer's may find certain tasks, especially those with numbers, more difficult as they may have forget what certain numbers mean or what value they represent.
Difficulties Performing Familiar Tasks â€“ Daily tasks, such as eating may become difficult or impossible without assistance.
Personality and Behavior Change â€“ Those with Alzheimer's may start to become unusually angry, irritable, restless, or quiet. A person with Alzheimer's may also become noticeably confused, paranoid, or fearful.
Poor Judgment â€“ Difficulties with judging things like the weather are apparent and the person may leave their house in their pajamas, or without being fully, or properly clothed.
Unable to Follow Directions â€“ simple commands and directions may become difficult for a person with Alzheimer's to understand, and the person may become lost easily or wander often.
Difficulty with Language and Communication â€“ Certain words may be forgotten or even everyday objects like a pen. Understanding words also become difficult.
Impaired Visual and Spatial Skills â€“ The ability to judge shapes, sizes, and their relationship to space becomes very hard.
Loss of Motivation or Initiative â€“ The person may become very passive and disinterested in interacting with others and may develop an anti-social behavior.
Loss of Normal Sleep Patterns â€“ A person with Alzheimer's may change their sleep pattern and sleep during the day, but will be completely awake at night.
What Causes Alzheimer's?
While the exact cause of Alzheimer's is not completely known, many people believe that the key lies in genetics. However, further research is needed before a final cause will be revealed. However, Alzheimer's causes the nerve cells within the brain to die, making the transmission of brain signals to become difficult.
What Increases My Risk of Developing Alzheimer's?
The exact cause of Alzheimer's is still unknown, but there are certain factors that may increase your risk of developing the disease.
Risk Factors Include:
Age â€“ The risk of developing Alzheimer's increases with age.
Gender â€“ Females are more likely to develop Alzheimer's than men.
Family History â€“ Although fewer than 1% of Alzheimer's cases are inherited it still increases the risk of developing the disease.
Down Syndrome â€“ People with Down Syndrome often develop Alzheimer's in their 30â€™s and 40â€™s.
Head Injury â€“ Some studies have shown a link between Alzheimer's and significant head injury
Environmental Toxins â€“ A few researchers think that an increase in exposure to certain substances may make a person more susceptible to Alzheimer's.
Low Education Level â€“ The reason is not completely understood, but studies have shown that lower education levels can be related to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's.
Other Factors â€“ Some research suggests that high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure may also increase the risk of Alzheimerâ€™s.
How is Alzheimer's Diagnosed?
Alzheimerâ€™s can be diagnosed by receiving a proper evaluation from your doctor. However, routine examinations are necessary as there is no actual definitive test to confirm the presence of Alzheimer's until after death.
How Alzheimer's Treated?
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's, but there are certain treatments that have been proven to improve the quality of life for a person living with Alzheimer's. The disease may be treated through medications and therapy in order to improve the length of their brain functions.
Medications for Alzheimer's
Several different types of medications are used to treat the memory loss, behavior changes, sleep problems, and other symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. However, there is no cure for Alzheimer's.Cholinesterase inhibitors help with the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's. They work by preventing the breakdown of a chemical messenger in the brain called acetylcholine, which is important for learning, memory, and attention.
Three cholinesterase inhibitors are approved for Alzheimer's disease therapy. Donepezil (Aricept) is approved to treat mild, moderate, and severe Alzheimer's. Rivastigmine (Exelon) and galantamine (Razadyne) are approved to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's. Exelon is now also available in a skin patch, which is easier for some patients to take. Side effects of the cholinesterase inhibitors include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and dizziness.
Memantine (Namenda) works by regulating the amount of another chemical messenger in the brain, called glutamate. Namenda is approved for moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. Side effects include dizziness, confusion, headache, constipation, nausea, and agitation. Because Namenda does not work the same way as a cholinesterase inhibitor, it may be used in combination with one.