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Alzheimer’s Disease- Signs and Symptoms, Stages and Treatment

What is Alzheimer’s? A disease that makes you forget things and people and maybe even your own self. So, memory loss that destroys memory and another important mental function but more than a disease, it is a clever thief that has full knowledge of what is worth enough to steal from you. In technical language – Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks, so basically memory loss.

This is not a rare condition, people prone to it start showing signs with increasing age. Some people are characteristically forgetful, there’s no disease factor so their memories only lose track for some time and come back later, however, this may differ for an Alzheimer’s patient. How to figure out the difference between generic forgetfulness and a disease is the tricky pick here. So here’s a quick guide to the symptoms, causes and signs of the disease.

5 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Why do people start forgetting things? This happens because the brain cells die causing memory loss and cognitive decline. A person with Alzheimer’s likely needs full-time assistance gradually as it becomes harder for people to reason, remember and recognize people and events. This condition can be contained with proper, timely medication and for that one must know the generic symptoms of it. This list given below will educate you about the early signs of it

1. Reduced ability to remember information

A person may ask the same questions again and again or repeat what they are saying. Not recognising roads and routes, misplacing things (objects). Forgetting to switch off electronic or hazardous devices. Not remembering dates or names.

2. A decline in reasoning and judgement

Inability to comprehend instructions, poor decision making. Numbers don’t make sense anymore. No concentration power, hence, take a longer time to complete a task.

3. Impaired speaking, reading and writing

Being lost of words, confused with spellings while writing. Struggling to find the right words. Not putting the brain to its full use. With damaged brain cells, certain data in the brain gets relocated to a spot, rarely accessed. While speaking, they might forget something that has already been shared more than once – so, repeating themselves.

4. Behavioural Change

People tend to become moody or cranky, easily agitated, get emotional, loss of empathy or socially unacceptable behaviour, strange demeanour, etc. Patients might withdraw from social activities or gatherings. If out of their comfort zone – they become vulnerable, can feel fearful, anxious, or depressed.

5. Visual Perception

Vision change in older people is often related to cataract but people with Alzheimer’s also suffer something similar, although confusion is the prime factor here. Problem identifying colours, measuring or judging a distance or reading.

Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease?

This disease cannot be completely cured, but it can be slowed down and if one is aware of the reasons/causes – it can be delayed or made less effective also. Damaged brain cells is a cause mentioned above but it actually takes a combination of conditions to cause it. So let’s take a look at some major causes.

1. Increasing age:- 

It is the most important known risk factor for Alzheimer’s. People touching 60 or 65 (years) are prone to this condition. People with rare genetic changes linked to early-onset Alzheimer’s begin experiencing symptoms as early as their 30’s.

2. Lifestyle:-

The kind of life you lead, whether you allow your brain to function proficiently. Also, it has been proven with pieces of evidence that the factors that are responsible for heart diseases are also the ones for Alzheimer’s. To name some – Obesity, Smoking, High blood pressure, Lack of exercise, Unhealthy eating, etc. All these can cause bigger problems that might be unsolvable in nature.

3. Genetic changes:-

Like we say diabetes runs in the family, well Alzheimer’s can be the same but it is not as much as passing down the condition, as Alzheimer’s is something a person develops. Research states that the risk of developing it is higher if a close relative like parents or siblings – has it. Scientists have identified rare changes in three genes that virtually guarantee a person who inherits them will develop Alzheimer’s.

4. Mild Cognitive Impairment:- 

Cognitive impairment is not an illness but a description of someone’s condition. It means they have trouble with things like memory or paying attention. Having this condition worsens that might be expected for an age, but not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia. Taking proper care of your actions and leading a healthy lifestyle can compensate for memory loss and help delay or prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s.

5. Education:-  

Surprising but true. A research has found an association between learning and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Mental and social simulation reduces the risk of it. Low education levels – appear to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

6. Head trauma:- 

People who have gone through an accident or injury on the head mainly, can develop this condition. Severe head traumas, losing someone, depression, or anything that affects mental stress can cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, it worsens over time. However, the rate of progress of the disease varies. Average life expectancy after the diagnosis of it is about four to eight years normally, but a person can live as long as twenty years, depending on other factors. The brain starts changing long before detection of any signs or symptoms and this time period is referred to as Preclinical Alzheimer’s. Following the preclinical stage, it is broken down into two more stages – Mild (cognitive) and Dementia.

1. Preclinical Stage (early)

It is hard to humanly detect the beginning of the condition at this stage, as the person does not show any change in character. The patient will continue with his/her regular routine. The brain cells start to get damaged. However, there will be no noticeable symptoms during this stage. It starts with forgetting things. Shows full effect in 2 to 4 years time.

2. Mild or Cognitive Stage (middle)

The cell-damaging continues and the disease progresses. Now, the symptoms start to show and become evident. The person will not be able to balance his regular routine, might forget 2 or 3 chores, will have trouble forming thoughts. Behavioural changes occur, he will get cranky and moody. There will be a decline in the ability to judge, solve problems or find the right words to speak. Driving is highly risky at this stage as the person lacks the agility to put reflexes to use. Takes 2 to 10 years to develop.

3. Severe Stage (late)

This stage brings total disassociation of mind from the surroundings. The sufferer now will be dependent on help – for bathing, eating or dressing. He will lack the ability to talk and walk, the brain will not receive a proper message for action. There will be a lack of coordination of limbs and speech. Forgetting people in your life – family and friends and big details will all take place now. The caretaker or family have to be emotionally prepared for this stage. Will speak less, becomes slow, the inability to sit up straight. Fully takes over in about 1 to 3 years and will require a lot of care.

Treatment for Alzheimer’s

There is no absolute treatment for this disease as such and the death of brain cells cannot be reversed but as mentioned above – it can be balanced and slowed down. There are special therapies and activities that can be introduced to the patients regular routine. Also, there are drugs available now that happen to reduce the symptoms and help improve quality of life. These drugs must always be prescribed by a professional.

1. Drugs: 

Drugs can be used to help with cognitive symptoms. There are two types of it – Choline-sterase inhibitors that work by boosting levels of a cell to cell communication by providing as a neurotransmitter. The second one is Memantine, it works as another brain cell communication and slows down the progression of symptoms of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.

2. Environment: 

Creating a safe environment is important. The caretaker should also try to adapt to the situation according to the needs of the patient. A supportive nature is necessary. Always make sure for this person to carry a mobile phone with tracking apps. At home, reduce the number of furniture (excess) and mirrors – it may confuse or frighten them.

3. Exercise: 

A walk is always a good option for everyone and so it does for Alzheimer patients. It can improve their mood and maintain healthy joints and a good heart. It will also promote good sleep and prevent constipation. Leaving these people to walk alone can be a lot risky, so if there is no one to accompany them, chair activities are also an option (in the house – while watching DVD’s or TV). Therapy groups or daycare for special cases are also available now.

4. Proper Nutrition:

As one of the habits is forgetting, forgetting to eat a proper meal is often an issue. People must drink a lot of fluids (excluding anything with caffeine). Must be given high-calorie foods and packaged juices, beans or health supplements should be avoided. Natural – unprocessed food is best for them. Milkshakes can be supplemented with protein powder ( easily available at superstores or retail shops). Almonds are also considered great for memory.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and caring for people with it can be a great task. However, knowing what to expect from these people at every stage makes it a little easier on the caretakers and families. It cannot be cured or reversed and knowing the day is coming when your loved one won’t know you are the most horrific feeling of all. But also the person who has Alzheimer’s knows that pieces of the puzzle are missing, and they are terrified. So, this is the best example for the saying “prevention is better than cure” – also, there is no cure and prevention can’t hold it for long.

Meghna

I am a student of literature, and Literature Is The Most Agreeable Way Of Ignoring Life, Maybe, because It takes a great deal of courage to see the world in all its' tainted glory, and still to love it.