Alzheimer ’s disease is the most prevalent, distressing form of dementia wherein the affected person mostly the elderly age bracket, face difficulty in recollection, judging and thought process that hinders routine functioning in life. As the disease progresses memory failure along with other symptoms become evident. Though certain medications provide respite to many individuals, there is no cure in this type of dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is summarised into three categories:
The Early onset – an atypical type affecting lesser than 10% cases, in those below the age of 65. It is a form of untimely aging wherein persons with Down’s syndrome are at greater risk of getting it with an age bracket of 40 onwards to early years of 50 becoming symptomatic.
The Late onset – also known as sporadic Alzheimer’s disease(SAD), it is an extensive type of Alzheimer’s disease that makes up 90% of all cited cases affecting those past the age of 65 years, not necessarily hereditary.
The Familial Alzheimer’s disease or FAD: It is quite rare comprising lesser than 1% cases, largely genetic in nature, affecting kin members up to two generations with symptoms appearing before 40 years of age.
Alzheimer’s Disease Causes:
Researchers are of the thought process that a grouping of hereditary, way of life an environmental reasons elicit the inception of the symptoms. Though the causes are still being delved into in detail, its debilitating effects on the brain cells or neurons is evident.
The leading causes comprise of:
- Damage to the brain cells known to be of two types:
1) Plaque- caused due to uncharacteristic processing of a mass of usually safe, beta-amyloid protein that might meddle with interaction between the neurons.
2) Tangle- the improper operation of the strands of tau protein that is crucial for maintaining inner support structure for the neurons.
- Ageing, female gender, family history and hereditary are some of the risk factors related to Alzheimer’s disease.
- The presence of the ApoE4 variant gene is the significant contributing genetic factor that leads to the Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease.
- Most of the perilous factors for heart disease like raised levels of blood pressure and cholesterol are also known risk elements for developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as for Vascular Dementia.
- Those adults with type-2 Diabetes are at risk as they have lowered insulin production in the brain similar to those with Alzheimer’s disease with additional decreased nerve cells sensitivity in the brain.
- Majority of persons inflicted with Down’s syndrome past 40 years incur unusual alterations in the brain, i.e., plaque and tangle that typify Alzheimer’s disease. While other Down’s syndrome cases would eventually develop dementia.
- More than half of those with mild cognitive levels or MCI- abnormal memory impairment, in those in 40-50years of age would in a decade’s time develop Alzheimer’s disease.
- Brain damage irrelevant of age, particularly recurring concussions are believed to eventually trigger Alzheimer’s disease.
- Those with lesser than six years of prescribed education are known to be at greater risk, as the brain stimulus attained through learning that gives a shielding effect to the brain is lesser in such persons.
- Those with past of depression, anxiety and insufficient brain exercise are at risk. Other factors likely to cause Alzheimer’s disease are smoking, over-indulgence in alcohol or drugs.
- Aluminium is a risk factor still being researched as such persons find trouble in handling foods that have copper, iron and aluminium in them.
Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms:
Alzheimer’s disease onsets with minor loss in memory, feeling confused ultimately leading in irreparable mental impairing. The symptoms include:
- Repetitive actions, failing to recall talks or meetings, regularly mislaying and placing them in irrelevant places, ultimately not recalling names of their kin and routine things.
- Difficulty in maintaining their accounts that escalates to not being able to decipher and handling numbers.
- Trouble in understanding or following conversations, not able to locate correct words to convey their thoughts. Finally, such people find it difficult to read and write.
- Such affected individuals are disoriented losing track of time, feeling astray despite known settings, loosing sense of judgement in even doing routine chores like cooking, increased trouble to perform tasks that necessitate plan, assessment and taking decisions.
- Marked changes in personality like moodiness, general sense of disbelief, becoming increasing obstinate, withdrawing into a shell, feeling depressed and anxious, and belligerence.
- Disregarding maintaining daily cleanliness like bathing, changing clothes and being adamant about having done those tasks.
- Becoming increasingly dependent on others like partner to take decisions or reply routine questions.
Exams & Tests:
The definite diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is possible only subsequent to death when microscopically the brain is scanned. But, by detailed testing and adopting the exclusion procedure after following the various tests, the disease is detected with an exactness rate of 90%.
- The patient’s medical past is evaluated by the doctor concerned. A concise mental state test is then conducted to detect any brain damage. A detailed physical examination is carried out of the patient.
- X-ray of the chest, blood and urine tests. Sometimes, a miniscule quantity of spinal fluid is extracted and sent for testing.
- Various scanning techniques are employed such as: Computed Tomography or CT or CAT scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI), Electroencephalography (EEG), Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan, Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography(SPECT), Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Imaging(MRSI).
- Neuropsychological testing that delves into the effect of the disease on the patient’s routine life that involves a detailed interview and tests to gauge memory, planning and judging skills, personality assessment.
- A novel skin test helps validate a preliminary presence of the disease by providing a score known as the Alzheimer’s index.
Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment:
Medicines like Exelon, Cognex and Razadyne assist in treating those with mild to moderate indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. The FDA approved, Aricept is given for all phases, while Namenda is administered to those in the moderate to high category.
Additionally, vitamin E supplements or alpha-tocopherol are known to postpone the period to deterioration.
In later stages of the disease, individuals fail to take care of themselves. This makes them more likely to having varied health issues like:
- Trouble in consuming food and fluids that might lead them to aspire their ingestion into lungs that could cause pneumonia.
- Loss of control over passing urine that could necessitate the fitting of a urinary catheter that raises the chances of urinary tract infections that if not attended to, could escalate to grave, life-menacing conditions.
- Due to their disorientation, their chances of falls and associated injury like head injury increases.
In a research carried on identical twins with similar sharing genes, it was observed that nearly 60% of the whole risk for sporadic Alzheimer’s disease is related to the kind of life one lives as opposed to being genetic.
Inculcating a healthy style of living that comprises of eating right, maintaining optimal health, daily exercise, regulating blood pressure and cholesterol levels, mingling with others and doing activities that fuel the brain.