Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes degeneration of the nerve cells. It causes memory loss and decreased cognitive function that leads to a wide range of neurological disorders. Dementia is a cause of Alzheimer's disease that is known to cause memory loss. Alzheimer's disease affects elderly people in large numbers; however, the incidence is higher in women because of their longer lifespan when compared to men.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease vary from confusion and memory impairment to personality changes that affect the day-to-day activities of the person. Early detection and diagnosis of these symptoms help in better treatment and management of Alzheimer's disease. The common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include:
- Decreased memory
- Decreased thinking
- Emotional distress
- Emotional outbursts
- Forgetting close family or friends
- Forgetting past events
- Sleep disturbances
Alzheimer's disease may arise due to genetic, environmental, lifestyle changes or a combination of these factors. Among these, age and genetic changes are common causes of Alzheimer's disease. The brain cells are affected due to gradual degeneration of nerve cells. This occurs due to cell shrinkage or nutritional supplements deprivation that leads to the death of brain cells. The brain cell death is observed due to the following conditions:
- Plaques: The formation of protein masses as lumps over that brain cells obstruct the transmission of brain signals. This prevents signal transmission between the brain cells and the nerves, thus causing decreased brain activity.
- Tangles: Certain protein carriers known as ‘tau’ provide the brain with essential nutrient supplements. The bending or entanglement of these protein carriers causes decreased nutrients supplementation to the brain, thus depriving the brain of essential supplements.
The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increase with the following factors:
- Age: People above 60 years of age are at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease is linked to the defective gene that is observed in young adults in their 30’s.
- Genetically Inherited Gene: Family history or a defective gene increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Apo-lipoprotein E4 is a gene known to cause Alzheimer’s disease, but not all people with the gene suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
- Down Syndrome: A gene in the extra chromosome in Down’s syndrome increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- Trauma or Head Injury: A trauma or previous head injury increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease cause decreased concentration, impaired speech and inability to communicate or express emotional stress and other health ailments. The timely diagnosis and treatment of the condition reduce the risk of these complications.
There is no specific parameter to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms and the physical findings provide major scope for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The occurrence of Alzheimer's disease is only confirmed by the presence of plaques and tangles in the brain of the dead person. The diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease includes:
- Neurological Examination: Monitoring the balance, coordination, muscle tone, strength and muscle reflexes helps in diagnosing the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Image Scans: Brain image scans such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and computed tomography (CT) scan diagnoses the underlying causes of abnormalities such as stroke, tumour or trauma of the brain cells. It also detects brain cell shrinkage caused due to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Neuropsychological Test: It is performed to monitor psychological, cognitive functions and the response to emotional and psychological stress.
- Laboratory Testing: Blood test and other laboratory tests are performed to diagnose the presence of any underlying conditions such as thyroid disorders or vitamin deficiencies.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, Alzheimer's disease is managed by effective use of medicines and other therapies that treat cognitive and behavioural changes.
Medication Therapy : It does not provide complete relief but helps in relieving symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Drugs such as anti-anxiety, antidepressant and sedatives are used to treat memory loss are prescribed to relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Cholinesterase inhibitors are a choice of drug used to relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
Regular physical fitness, nutritious diet and proper hygiene play a major role in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It also delays the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in people with a family history of the condition. Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels and blood pressure helps in promoting a healthy lifestyle and delays the formation of Alzheimer's disease.
The use of various natural products such as vitamin E, curcumin, omega-3 fatty acids and gingko delay the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Promoting mental health by participating in social activities helps in balancing emotional stress. It thus controls anger, grief, anxiety and depression caused due to Alzheimer's disease. Special care should be taken to keep certain valuables, such as wallets, keys, money and medicines in a particular place as it avoids confusion.