About Alzheimer’s disease
Medikoe Health Expert
Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru Feb 14, 2017
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia. Dementia is a broader term for ailments caused due to brain injuries or disorders which negatively affect memory, behaviour and thinking. These changes can interfere with a person's daily life.
As per the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s accounts for about 60 to 80 per cent of dementia patients. Most people suffering from this disease get a diagnosis after the age of 65 years. In case it is diagnosed before then, it is commonly referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are still treatments which can slow the progression of the disease.
Dementia vs Alzheimer’s
The terms “Alzheimer’s” and “dementia” are seldom used reciprocally. However, these two conditions are not the same in any way. Alzheimer’s is just one of the many kinds of dementia, whereas dementia is rather a more extended term for conditions with symptoms associated with memory loss, including confusion and forgetfulness. Dementia involves more specific conditions, such as traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions which can cause such symptoms. Causes, symptoms, and treatments can vary between patients for these diseases according to the stage and severity.
Causes and risk factors
Experts have not determined a particular cause of Alzheimer’s disease, but they have discovered some prominent risk factors, such as:
Age: Most patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, develop the disease at around 65 years of age or more.
Genetics: Certain genes have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Family history: In case you have an immediate family member who has acquired the condition, you are more likely to develop it.
Encountering one or more of the mentioned risk factors does not mean that you will develop Alzheimer’s. It simply increases the level of risk.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
Everyone has experiences of forgetfulness or carelessness from time to time—however, people suffering from Alzheimer’s display some particular symptoms and behaviours, which can worsen as time passes. Symptoms vary according to the stage of the disease. These can involve:
memory loss affecting day to day activities, like an ability to keep track of appointments
the trouble with speech or writing
difficulties with problem-solving
becoming disoriented about times or places
lowered personal hygiene
personality and mood changes
the difficulty with familiar tasks, like using a microwave
withdrawal from friends and family
Alzheimer’s is a progressive condition, which suggests the symptoms will slowly worsen with time. As a person progresses through these stages, they will need increasing help from a caregiver. Alzheimer’s is split down into seven gradual stages.
Stage 1. There are no visible symptoms at this early stage, but there might be an early diagnosis based on family history and genetics.
Stage 2. The earliest symptoms surface, such as forgetfulness and confusion.
Stage 3. Mild mental and physical impairments develop, such as concentration and reduced memory. These may just be detectable by someone very close to the patient.
Stage 4. Alzheimer’s is many times diagnosed at this stage, but it is still considered to be mild. The inability to perform everyday tasks and memory loss is evident here.
Stage 5. Moderate to severe symptoms call for help from caregivers or loved ones.
Stage 6. At this stage, a person with Alzheimer’s may require help with basic tasks, like putting on clothes or eating.
Stage 7. This is the final and the most severe stage of Alzheimer’s disease. There may even be a loss of speech and facial expressions.
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease
The only reliable way to diagnose a person with Alzheimer’s disease is to examine their brain tissue after death. However, your doctor can do other tests or examinations to diagnose dementia, assess your mental abilities, and rule out other possible conditions. They will probably start by taking your medical history. They may inquire about your
current or past health conditions
family medical history
current or past medications
diet, smoking, alcohol intake, or other lifestyle choices and habits
There is no particular test for Alzheimer’s disease. However, your doctor will likely run some tests to conclude your diagnosis. These can be physical, mental, imaging and neurological tests.
The doctor may start with a basic mental status test. This can help in assessing your long-term memory, short-term memory, and orientation to time and place. For instance, they may ask you to remember and recall a brief list of words or questions like what day it is?
Next, they will probably conduct a physical test. For instance, they will take your temperature, check your blood pressure and evaluate your heart rate. In a few cases, they may also ask for blood or urine samples for testing in a lab.
The doctor may also prescribe a neurological exam to rule out other potential diagnoses, such as an acute medical issue (like stroke or infection). During this evaluation, they will check your speech, reflexes, and muscle tone.
Your doctor may also ask for brain-imaging studies. These include:
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan- PET scan images can help your doctor in detecting plaque buildup. Plaque is a protein substance associated with Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Computed tomography (CT) scan- CT scans take X-ray images that can help the doctor look for any abnormal characteristics present in your brain.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)- MRIs can help in picking up key markers, like inflammation, structural issues and bleeding.
Other tests your doctor may ask for are blood tests to examine your genetics which may indicate a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Just like there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are no foolproof precautionary steps. However, researchers are directing on overall healthy lifestyle habits as a means of stopping the cognitive decline. Make sure you consult with a doctor before initiating any big changes in your lifestyle.
The following steps may be of help:
Try cognitive training exercises
Maintain an active social life
Consume more antioxidants
Eat a plant-based diet
Are you looking for a health expert around you?
Medikoe is an online platform that allows you to search and connect with the most qualified and experienced doctors near you. Have a query related to health? Get it answered for free within 24 hours only at Medikoe. Download Medikoe's Mobile app and book an appointment with a doctor for free.