Alzheimer’s Disease Definition
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease that results in a gradual decline in memory, thinking and speech ability, as well as behavioral changes. The condition is widely found in people over 65 years of age.
The disease develops progressively. This means, Alzheimer’s will get worse over time.
Intellectual and social abilities in people with Alzheimer’s disease will continue to decline as the condition of their brain cells deteriorates to death.
In the early stages, sufferers will feel a little confused and have difficulty remembering conversations or recent events. Slowly, severe memory problems will occur.
Sufferers can even forget the important people in their lives, experience, personality changes, and are unable to do daily activities.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
In the early stages, people with Alzheimer’s disease will experience mild or senile memory disorders, such as forgetting the name of an object or place, and forgetting the events or content of conversations that have not occurred for a long time. Over time, the Alzheimer symptoms will get worse.
At an advanced stage, people with Alzheimer’s disease have difficulty talking or explaining things, difficult to plan things, difficult to make decisions, often seem confused, and experiencing personality changes.
Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Factors
Some of the things that increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s include:
- Over 60 years old.
- Family history and genetics.
- Down syndrome.
- Mild cognitive impairment.
- History of head trauma.
- Lifestyle and heart health.
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
- Low level of education.
Alzheimer’s Disease Causes
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet known. However, it is thought that Alzheimer’s occurs due to the deposition of proteins in the brain, thus blocking the intake of nutrients to brain cells.
Microscopic changes in the brain begin long before the first signs of memory loss. The brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). Each nerve cell is connected to many other cells to form a communication network. Nerve cell groups have a special job. Some are involved in thinking, learning, and remembering. Meanwhile, others help us see and hear.
To do their job, brain cells operate like small factories. They receive supplies, generate energy, build equipment, and dispose of waste. Cells also process and store information and communicate with other cells. Keeping everything running requires coordination as well as a large amount of fuel and oxygen.
Experts believe that Alzheimer’s disease interferes with parts of the cell plant, so it doesn’t go well.
Scientists aren’t sure how this problem started, but like real factories, backups, and glitches in one system cause problems in other areas. When the damage spreads, the cells lose the ability to do the work and eventually die, causing irreversible changes in the brain.
Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis
How does the doctor diagnose the disease?
The only sure way to diagnose someone with Alzheimer’s disease is to examine brain tissue after death. However, doctors can use other examinations and tests to assess your mental abilities.
The doctor may begin the examination by asking for a history of treatment. In addition, the doctor will also ask about:
- Your family’s medical history
- Health conditions you are or have encountered
- Treatment you are or have been taking
- Lifestyle, diet, and drinking habits.
From that examination, the doctor may be conducting several tests to determine if you are an Alzheimer’s patient.
Alzheimer’s disease screening
There is no definitive test to check for Alzheimer’s disease. However, the doctor may perform several tests to determine the diagnosis. The examination can be a mental, physical, neurological, and imaging tests.
The doctor will probably start with a mental status test. This can help them assess your short-term, long-term memory, up to your orientation to place and time. For example, a doctor might ask you a few trivial things to provoke your memory skills.
Next, the doctor will perform an examination. For example, your doctor will check your blood pressure, assess your heart rate, and measure your body temperature. Your doctor may also request samples of your urine and blood for laboratory testing.
In addition, doctors can also perform neurological examinations to rule out the possibility of other diagnoses, such as acute medical problems, such as infections or strokes. During this exam, they will check your reflexes, muscles, and speech.
The doctor will probably do a brain imaging study. Therefore, your brain imaging will be examined through:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs can help show key symptoms, such as inflammation, bleeding, and structural problems.
- Computed tomography (CT) scans. CT scans take X-ray images that will help doctors see abnormal characteristics in your brain.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scans. This test can help doctors detect plaque buildup. Plaque is a protein associated with Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Other tests a doctor might do may include blood tests to check for genes that may indicate you have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
How to deal with Alzheimer’s disease
Unfortunately, to date, there has been no specific drug to treat Alzheimer’s. The drugs available only serve to alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
For Alzheimer’s that is still in its early stages, doctors usually prescribe drugs such as donepezil (Aricept) or rivastigmine (Exelon).
These drugs can help maintain levels of acetylcholine or a neurotransmitter that helps memory in the brain.
To treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s, doctors usually prescribe donepezil (Aricept) or memantine (Namenda).
Memantine can help block the effects of excess glutamate or brain-destroying chemicals that are typically produced in large quantities in Alzheimer’s patients.
Doctors can also provide antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or antipsychotics to help treat Alzheimer’s-related symptoms. These symptoms can be:
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