Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative mental disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. It is the most common form of dementia and is commonly seen in the elderly. While the chances of developing the disease increase with age, it is now seen that younger people are also now being diagnosedwith the disease.
During the course of Alzheimer’s disease, nerve cells in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought die due to plaque deposition. Symptoms include confusion, mood swings, impaired reasoning or judgement, long-term memory loss and a gradual loss of bodily functions.
Dementia is the most prominently visible symptom. People with Alzheimer’s begin to have problems recognising family and friends. They also find it exceptionally difficult to learn new things, carry out tasks that involve multiple steps (like getting dressed) and cope with new situations. They might suffer from insomnia. In the more severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the brain completely shrinks and they become increasingly dependent on others.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or simply Alzheimer’s is one of the most common forms of dementia. Dementia refers to the loss of cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative form of dementia meaning the patient’s condition worsens as the disease progresses. Read to know about early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Scientists still haven’t figured exactly what causes the disease but plaques and tangles in the brain look different than regular individuals. As of now, there is no treatment to reverse or stop the disease and the current treatment methods simply focus on treating the symptoms.
The well-established risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease are –
- Family history of Alzheimer’s disease (FAD)
- Genetic risk factors in late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
- Down’s syndrome
- Head injury
- Education level
According to Dr Rajiv Anand, Director and HOD, Neurology Department, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi, the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease differ from person-to-person, but can generally be categorised as the following ten symptoms. However, some of the common symptoms are –
- Memory loss
- Difficulty in performing tasks
- Challenges in solving simple problems
- Misplacing things
- Struggling to socialise
- Difficulty in reading and vision
- Drastic changes in personality
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Repetition of words
Here is detailed explanation on 10 early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
‘There is no single diagnostic test to determine whether a person has Alzheimer’s or not. However, a series of clinical and physiological examination is carried out to diagnose the condition‘ explains Dr Rajiv Anand. This include –
- A complete medical and psychiatric history
- A neurological exam
- Laboratory tests (Read: A blood test to detect Alzheimer’s)
- A mental status exam
- Neuropsychological tests
- Interviews with friends and family
Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? here’s what to do when the worst has happened.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s involves use of medicines to treat the symptoms of the illness and no drug has been found to halt or reverse this degenerative disease. Here’s how to deal with the side-effects of Alzheimer’s drugs.
On the other hand there are many psycho-social interventions for patients but they are for all forms of dementia and not specifically for Alzheimer’s. These interventions involve —
- Reminiscence therapy (discussion of past experiences to jog a patient’s memory). Did you know nasal insulin spray may treat Alzheimer’s disease?
- Simulated presence therapy (playing a recording of voices of the closest relatives to reduce challenging behaviour)
- Validation theory (which is based on accepting the reality about dementia and moving past it to get better).