Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic (lifelong), progressive disease characterized by degeneration of the brain’s nervous tissue. It sets in gradually and typically presents in older people.

Progression

As the disease progresses, there is an accumulation of abnormal structures in the brain called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles which are the universal hallmarks of the condition. These interfere with the healthy functioning of the brain and cause irreversible and progressive brain damage.

Moreover, the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s disease have a chemical imbalance since the disease process causes a breakdown of an important chemical messenger known as acetylcholine.

Prevalence

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60 – 70% of all cases.

Prevention

The factors that can protect against developing Alzheimer’s disease include physical exercise and mental exercises such as completing crosswords and numbers problems.

Dementia vs Alzheimer’s

Dementia is a syndrome characterized by a progressive, usually irreversible decline in thinking, behavior, feelings, and ability to communicate. Alzheimer’s is a gradual breakdown of brain tissue which affects a person’s mental state and behavior and progresses to affecting speaking, walking, and swallowing.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease:

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are generally mild to start with, but they get worse over time and start to interfere with daily life.

The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is difficulty remembering recent events. As Alzheimer’s disease advances, symptoms can include:

  • Language problems – difficulty understanding others and expressing thoughts
  • Lessening of visual and spatial awareness
  • Less capable of carrying out regular activities of daily living
  • Behavioral and psychological symptoms – aggression, wandering, depression, anxiety, apathy
  • Personality and intellectual disintegration

Risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease:

The factors that increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Older age
  • Family history
  • Female gender
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Previous head injury

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease:

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is made in a specialist setting usually by an older-age or later-life psychiatrist. A diagnosis is based on the history of the illness and cognitive testing such as the completion of validated questionnaires (such as the Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (ACE). Medical imaging (such as a CT scan of the head) and blood tests can also be done to exclude other possible causes of the symptoms.

Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease:

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease; however, treatment involves preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine by taking medicines such as donepezil, which helps to boost levels of this chemical messenger — thus slowing down disease progression and enhancing cognition. However, these medicines are associated with adverse effects, so patients on these drugs must be closely monitored by a psychiatrist.

A multidisciplinary team comprised of a psychiatrist, family doctor, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, and psychologist provide a holistic approach in the management of dementia.

  • Functional support is crucial so as to maximize mobility and to encourage independence with, for example, washing, toileting, and feeding.
Typical life expectancy following the onset of diagnosis is between three to nine years.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease:

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are generally mild to start with, but they get worse over time and start to interfere with daily life.

The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is difficulty remembering recent events. As Alzheimer’s disease advances, symptoms can include:

  • Language problems – difficulty understanding others and expressing thoughts
  • Lessening of visual and spatial awareness
  • Less capable of carrying out regular activities of daily living
  • Behavioral and psychological symptoms – aggression, wandering, depression, anxiety, apathy
  • Personality and intellectual disintegration

Risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease:

The factors that increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Older age
  • Family history
  • Female gender
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Previous head injury

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease:

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is made in a specialist setting usually by an older-age or later-life psychiatrist. A diagnosis is based on the history of the illness and cognitive testing such as the completion of validated questionnaires (such as the Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination (ACE). Medical imaging (such as a CT scan of the head) and blood tests can also be done to exclude other possible causes of the symptoms.

Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease:

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease; however, treatment involves preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine by taking medicines such as donepezil, which helps to boost levels of this chemical messenger — thus slowing down disease progression and enhancing cognition. However, these medicines are associated with adverse effects, so patients on these drugs must be closely monitored by a psychiatrist.

A multidisciplinary team comprised of a psychiatrist, family doctor, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, and psychologist provide a holistic approach in the management of dementia.

  • Functional support is crucial so as to maximize mobility and to encourage independence with, for example, washing, toileting, and feeding.

Typical life expectancy following the onset of diagnosis is between three to nine years.

Source NIH | WIKIPEDIA – Neurodegeneration | WIKIPEDIA – Cognitive Test | WIKIPEDIA – Medical Imaging | WIKIPEDIA – Blood Test