Alzheimer’s Disease Best Writers
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that shrinks the brain causing brain cells to die. It is the greatest cause of dementia. Dementia is the continuous reduction in thinking, social and behavioral skills that interfere with a person’s ability to function on their own.
It is estimated that 60-70% of the 50 million people in the world with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease. Early signs of Alzheimer’s disease are forgetfulness. People suffering from the disease forget recent conversations and events.
Progression of the disease leads to severe impairment of the memory and inability to perform everyday tasks. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can improve temporarily with medications and their progression slowed down.
Medication helps people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease to function to their best ability and be independent although for some time. Additionally, there are services and programs put in place to help people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.
Alzheimer’s disease does not have a cure nor is its treatment that can reverse or change the disease process in the brain. In advanced Alzheimer’s disease, complications as a result of severe loss of brain function such as malnutrition, dehydration, and infection usually lead to death.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
The main symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is loss of memory. Difficulty in remembering recent conversations and events is one of the early signs of the disease. Memory impairment gets worse as the disease progresses. Other symptoms to develop.
In the beginning, a person with Alzheimer’s may notice that they are having difficulty organizing their thoughts and remembering things. Close friends and family too can notice the worsening of the symptoms. Alzheimer’s disease causes changes in the brain which lead to issues with;
- Memory – memory loss usually worsens and persists more than the occasional memory lapses. This makes it difficult for a person suffering from the disease to function normally at home or work. People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease may do the following;
- Easily get lost in familiar places
- Repeat questions and statements over and over
- Forget appointments, events, and conversations
- Have a habit of misplacing their possessions and will put them in unlikely places
- Have a hard time finding the words to express their thoughts, identify objects and engage in conversations
- In the long run they forget the names of their family members and everyday items.
- Thinking and reasoning – people with Alzheimer’s disease often have difficulty thinking and concentrating mostly on abstract concepts for example numbers. In addition, they cannot multitask. Additionally, they have a hard time managing finances, balancing books, and paying bills on time. In the end, they lose the ability to recognize and deal with numbers.
- Making decisions and judgments – Alzheimer’s disease reduces a person’s ability to make sensible decisions and judgments in their everyday life. For instance, they may make unreasonable choices in social interactions or inappropriately dressed for the weather. They cannot respond effectively to common problems.
- Planning and performing familiar tasks – as the disease advances, it becomes difficult to perform familiar tasks.
- Changes in behavior and personality – changes that occur in the brain as a result of Alzheimer’s disease usually affect the behaviors and moods of the person. Some of the problems that may arise are;
- Mood swings
- Social withdrawal
- Distrust in people
- Aggressiveness and irritability
- Loss of inhibitions
- Change in sleeping habits
- Delusions for example believing that something has been stolen
- Preserved skills – even as symptoms of Alzheimer’s worsen, important skills are preserved. Some of these skills are telling stories, reading, listening to books, singing, listening to music, drawing, dancing, and doing crafts.
Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease
A key part in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is a person being able to explain their symptoms. It is also important to have the perspective of a family member or friend about your symptoms and how they have affected your daily life.
For one to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, several tests are carried out to assess the thinking skills and memory of the person. Performing both laboratory and imaging tests helps the doctor to identify which disease is causing the symptoms of dementia as well as rule out potential causes.
However, it is important to note that complete certainty in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can only be done after death. The brain is examined under a microscope to show the characteristic tangles and plaque.
Tests are done to diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease
A diagnostic workup will include a number of tests including;
- Physical and neurological exam – a doctor carries out a physical exam and assesses the overall neurological health of a person by testing their reflexes, sense of hearing and sight, muscle tone and strength, ability to get up from a chair and walk across the room, balance and coordination.
- Laboratory tests – the doctor uses blood tests to rule out other potential causes of confusion and loss of memory which could be vitamin deficiencies or a disorder of the thyroid.
- Neuropsychological and mental status testing – doctors give out a brief mental status test to assess the person’s thinking skills and memory. Longer forms of neuropsychological tests give additional details of mental functions in comparison with people of the same education level and age. These two tests can help the doctor to make a diagnosis and be the starting point for tracking the progression of the symptoms in the future.
- Brain imaging – brain images are used to pinpoint the visible abnormalities that are related to other conditions besides Alzheimer’s disease. These could be a stroke, tumors, or trauma that causes cognitive change. Modern-day imaging applications can help doctors to detect particular brain changes caused by Alzheimer’s. brain imaging includes the following;
- Computerized tomography (CT) – a CT scan gives cross-sectional images of the brain and is mostly used to rule out head injuries and tumors.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – radio waves and a strong magnetic field are used to give detailed images of the brain. MRI scans show brain shrinkage related to Alzheimer’s as well as rule out the possibility of other conditions. In the evaluation of dementia.
- Positron emission tomography- this test shows the image of the processes of the disease. PET imaging includes amyloid Pet imaging, Fluorodeoxyglucose PET, and tau PET imaging.
Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease
Medications given to manage the disease can improve the quality of life for people living with the disease and that of their caregivers. Currently, there is no known cure for the disease. Treatment given for Alzheimer’s disease addresses the following areas;
- Slowing down or delaying symptoms of Alzheimer’s
- Helping people with Alzheimer’s to maintain their brand health
- Managing behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
Medications currently being used only help for a time with the memory symptoms and cognitive changes. Currently, there are two types of drugs being used to treat cognitive symptoms. They are;
- Cholinesterase inhibitors – these work by boosting cell to cell communication levels by preserving the chemical messenger that is usually depleted by Alzheimer’s disease. The use of these drugs causes modest improvements. Side effects of these drugs include nausea, diarrhea, sleep disturbances, and loss of appetite. Cardiac arrhythmia is a side effect in people suffering from certain heart disorders.
- Memantine – this drug is used in moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. It usually slows down the progression of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Side effects of memantine include confusion and dizziness.
Creating a safe and supportive environment – adapting the current living situation to the needs of the person with Alzheimer’s is an important part of their treatment plan. It is important to avoid tasks that are memory-demanding.
The following steps can help support the sense of well-being and ability to function of a person with Alzheimer’s;
- Installing alarm sensors on windows and doors
- Arranging for their finances to be on automatic deposit and payment
- Keeping medications in a secure location. Use a daily checklist to track dosages
- Always keep keys, mobile phones, wallets, and other valuables in the same place at home to avoid losing them
- Have the person with Alzheimer’s carry a mobile phone with an enabled location to be able to track them
- Removing excess clutter, throw rugs, furniture, and so on
- Installing sturdy handrails in stairways and the bathroom
- Ensuring slippers and shoes are comfortable and have a good traction
- Keeping photographs and other meaningful objects around the house
- Reducing the number of mirrors. People with Alzheimer’s disease can be easily confused or frightened by images in the mirror
- Ensuring people with Alzheimer’s disease carry identification or wear medical alert bracelets
- Ensure regular appointments are scheduled on the same day and time
- Using a calendar or whiteboard to track daily schedules. Form a habit of checking off completed items.
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