November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.
What is Alzheimers disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder. Death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline.
This is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases of dementia in the U.S.
In 2013, research shows 6.8 million people in the U.S. alone had been diagnosed with dementia. 5 million patients from that study had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. By 2050, projections are likely to double.
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease. At first, symptoms are mild, but will become severe in time.
For a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, people must have sense a decline in cognitive or behavioral function and comparing their act with how they were before.
Inability to remember new information, which can also lead to:
- repetitive questions or conversations
- misplacing personal belongings
- forgetting events or appointments
- getting lost on a familiar route
Weaken reasoning, and impaired judgment, for instance:
- poor understanding
- poor decision-making
Decrease visuospatial abilities, for example, due to eye sight problems. These could be:
- inability to recognize faces or common objects or to find objects in direct view
- inability to use simple tools, for example, to orient clothing to the body
Impaired speaking, reading and writing:
- difficulty thinking of common words while speaking, hesitations
- speech, spelling, and writing errors
Changes in personality and behavior:
- out-of-character mood changes, lack in social surroundings or a lack of interest
- less empathy
- compulsive, obsessive, unacceptable behavior
If the severity of symptoms points to dementia, the following pointers can then confirm Alzheimer’s.
Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms worsen over the course of hours or days,
Alzheimer’s is most likely when memory loss is an extended symptom, especially in the process of learning and inability to collecting new information.
Causes and risk factors
People with Alzheimer’s, their tissue has fewer and fewer nerve cells and connections.
Autopsies have shown that the nerve tissue in the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s has very little deposits, known as plaques and tangles, that build up on the tissue.
The plaques are found between the dying brain cells, and they are made from a protein known as beta-amyloid.
The tangles occur within the nerve cells, and they are made from another protein, called tau.
Researchers do not understand why these changes occur. Several different factors are believed to be involved.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. The death of brain cells cannot be reversed.
However, there are therapeutic interventions that can make it easier for people to live with the disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, here are some important elements of dementia care:
- effective management of any conditions occurring alongside the Alzheimer’s
- activities and day-care programs
- involvement of support groups and services
No drugs are available for Alzheimer’s disease, but some options may decrease the symptoms and help improve quality of life.
Cholinesterase inhibitors that are approved for symptomatic relief in the U.S. include:
A different kind of drug, memantine (Namenda), an NMDA receptor antagonist, may also be used, alone or in combination with a cholinesterase inhibitor.
Here are some references:
Cognition Dementia Assessment Measures. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.dementia-assessment.com.au/cognitive/
Granic, I., Masman, M.F., Luiten, P.G.M, Eisel, U.L.M (2010). Braak staging in mouse models of alzheimer’s aisease, American Journal of Pathology, 177 (4): 1603 – 1605.
Guideline for Alzheimer’s Disease Management. (2008). Retrieved from https://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/alzheimers/Documents/professional_GuidelineFullReport.pdf
Humpel, C. (2011). Identifying and validating biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease. Trends in Biotechnology, 29 (1). 26 – 32. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2010.09.007
Jun, I.S.Y (2008). What is Alzheimer’s Disease? [Video file]. Retrieved from: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/what-is-alzheimer-s-disease-ivan-seah-yu-jun