ALZHEIMER’S ALERT!

drkmh ALZHEIMER’S ALERT!

 

Memory loss is the most common and earliest symptom of Alzheimer’s. As the disease progresses, the person may even forget how to do simple everyday activities such as bathing and dressing.

Alzheimer’s Disease affects those past their 60s, but it is not a natural part of aging. We often tend to expect older people to be forgetful or spaced out. We attribute these qualities to their age and ignore it. Only when their memory loss or cognitive decline begins to pose a safety-issue for the individual and those around him, do we actually realise something is wrong. At this stage even managing Alzheimer’s becomes difficult. Diagnosing the condition earlier on, will help the individual and his caregivers to be prepared.

 

WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?

 

Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disorder that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to die. This obviously impedes and reduces normal brain function resulting in memory loss, cognitive decline and can even restrict physical activity. As the disease progresses it results in a visible decline in thinking, behavioural and social skills – making it practically impossible for the person to live independently.

 

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BRAIN IN ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?

 

The brain as we all know, is made up of nerve cells sending and receiving signals, enabling the mind and body to function in unison. When a certain protein called the beta-amyloid shows up in clusters forming plaque on the brain cells, the signal process (transfer of information to and from the brain) gets disrupted. Over type brain tissues get diseases and the nerve network in the brain gets tangled beyond repair. The proteins that are required to stabilise and nurture the brain are lost and brain cells just die. These changes are irreversible. Treating Alzheimer’s is all about managing symptoms and attempting to find drugs that can slow down cognitive decline.

 

SYMPTOMS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

 

  • Memory loss is the most common and earliest symptom of Alzheimer’s. Being absentminded is one thing but forgetting things within minutes of saying or doing it, is definitely a red flag. As the disease progresses, the person may even forget how to do simple everyday activities such as bathing and dressing.
  • Inability to concentrate and focus on concepts is another symptom to watch out for. The person may not be able to even carry out simple math problems like totalling a bill or counting. Dealing with numbers becomes more and more difficult as the disease progresses.
  • Making poor judgment is also a result of brain degeneration. The person may make wrong or uncharacteristic decisions in a situation because their brain is slowly losing its ability to make reasonable decisions.
  • As the brain deteriorates, the person undergoes a number of mood changes. They may not know how to respond to situations and may appear depressed or apathetic, socially withdrawn or even unusually upbeat. From being lost in thought to actually wandering off and getting lost, the struggles pile on.
  • Being delusional is also one of the later signs of Alzheimer’s. For no reason the person might form his own beliefs or come to irrational conclusions surrounding events that may never happened at all – like thinking something they had was stolen or that somebody is trying to cheat them or that they have to be some place important. Alzheimer’s is one of the main causes of Dementia and it only worsens as brain cells continue to die.

WHO IS AT RISK?

 

  • People aged 65 and more.
  • If a first-degree relative (a parent or a sibling) has the disease.
  • Those with Down Syndrome. However, they show symptoms of Alzheimer’s 10 to 20 years earlier than others.
  • Those who have suffered severe head trauma.
  • Air pollution can speed up degeneration of the nervous system. This means people who are exposed extensively to traffic exhaust and burning wood are at greater risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol is known to alter brain function.
  • Smoking or exposure to second hand smoking puts you at risk of Alzheimer’s.

TREATING ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

 

There is no cure to Alzheimer’s. There is no way of reversing the cell damage that occurs in the brain. Modern medicine aims only at reducing the rate at which this happens, which means delaying the process but not stopping or reversing. Drugs are available to help maintain mental function and delay the onset of dementia. In a recent breakthrough by drug company Eli Lilly, it was found that their under-trial drug Donanemab may significantly slow down an Alzheimer’s patient’s cognitive decline. They conducted a two-year study on 272 people who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They found that patients who were given the drug had a 32% slower rate of decline than those who were given the placebo. It might be a while before the drug is commercially available, yet the promise it holds has brought hope for those with the disease. There are similar such drugs awaiting FDA approval, which promises to delay the decline into dementia and also increase the life-expectancy of those with Alzheimer’s.

 

Nevertheless, as the disease progresses it is best to ensure the person with the disease always has a caregiver present. Caregivers for Alzheimer patients must understand the condition, know what to expect and be equipped to deal with extreme dementia and altered physical behaviour.

 

Reviewed By:

Dr.PREETHA.P

CONSULTANT – NEUROLOGY

MBBS, MD, DM (NEUROLOGY)

Ambulance Service In Chennai

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