Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder which affects older individuals and is the most common cause of dementia. Patients with Alzheimer’s have a significant loss of cholinergic neurons in the temporal lobe and entorhinal cortex. This disease is characterized by the loss of cholinergic neurons in the nucleus basalis of Maynert. It may progress to a totally vegetative state.
Senile dementia is estimated to have affected around 4 million people in the year 2000. The number of cases is expected to increase as the proportion of elderly in the population increases. Initially, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may notice mild confusion and difficulty in remembering. Eventually, they may even forget their close relatives and show drastic behavioral changes.
Most common cause of dementia is ‘senile dementia’ where the brain cells degenerate and die, causing a steady decline in memory and mental functions. Treatment of Alzheimer’s is temporary and it only improves the symptoms. Since there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to seek supportive services.
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How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Affect Your Body?
Alzheimer’s disease affects the body by impairing the parts of the brain that allow the formation of new memories and orientation. As it progresses, it spreads to the parts of the brain that control walking, swallowing and coordination; thus eventually affecting the functioning of the entire body.
What Are The Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease?
The cause of Alzheimer’s is still unknown. In some cases, it is related to genetic differences. Several hypotheses exist. One of them is the ‘Amyloid Hypothesis’ which states that the atrophy of cortical and subcortical areas is associated with deposition of β-amyloid protein in the form of extracellular senile (amyloid) plaques and formation of intracellular neurofibrillary tangles. These abnormal proteins accumulate mostly due to reduced clearance and can cause neuronal damage in case of overproduction.
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What Are The Risk Factors of Alzheimer’s Disease?
- Age – Increasing age is the greatest known risk factor. However, the risk greatly increases after reaching 65 years of age.
- Family history and genetics – Risk of developing Alzheimer’s appears to be higher if a parent or sibling has the disease.
- Down syndrome – Symptoms of senile dementia tend to appear 10 to 20 years earlier in people who are suffering from Down syndrome.
- Sex – Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than are men.
- Mild cognitive impairment – People with MCI have an increased risk (but not a certainty), of developing dementia at later stages.
- Head trauma – A head trauma in the past may increase the risk of senile dementia.
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What Are The Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are:
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- Distrust in others
- Irritability and aggressiveness
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Loss of inhibitions
- Delusions (for example, believing something has been stolen)
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How is Alzheimer’s Diagnosed?
To help distinguish Alzheimer’s disease from other causes of memory loss, the following tests are performed:
- Physical and neurological examination – To check the overall neurological health by testing reflexes, muscle tone, strength, ability to get up from a chair and walk across the room, sense of sight and hearing, coordination and balance.
- Blood tests – To rule out other potential causes of memory loss and confusion, such as thyroid disorders or vitamin deficiencies.
- Mental status and neuropsychological testing – To assess memory and other thinking skills.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – To rule out conditions that may account for or add to cognitive symptoms. MRI may also be used to assess whether shrinkage in the brain’s regions has occurred.
- Computerized Tomography (CT) – To rule out tumors, strokes and head injuries, by producing cross-sectional images of the brain.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) – To show the parts of the brain which aren’t functioning well, by injecting a low-level radioactive tracer in the vein. These days, new techniques are able to detect levels of the two abnormalities linked to senile dementia – plaques (amyloid) and tangles (tau).
- Cerebrospinal Fluid Examination – To test for biomarkers that indicate the likelihood of senile dementia in people suffering from rapidly progressive dementia or very young onset dementia.
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How To Prevent And Control Alzheimer’s Disease?
At present, there is no proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, certain measures can be taken to reduce the chances of it:
- Following a Mediterranean diet can lower the risk of death from cardiovascular diseases and strokes, and has also been associated with reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Staying physically, mentally and socially active makes life more enjoyable and may also help reduce the risk of senile dementia.
Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease – Allopathic Treatment
Medications used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease are:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors – These drugs boost levels of cell-to-cell communication by providing a neurotransmitter (acetylcholine) that is depleted in the brain by Alzheimer’s disease. These inhibitors can improve neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as agitation or depression. Commonly prescribed drugs are donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Razadyne) and rivastigmine (Exelon).
- Memantine (Namenda) – This drug slows the progression of symptoms from moderate to severe senile dementia.
- Antidepressants – Sometimes antidepressants are used to help control the behavioral symptoms associated with senile dementia. But some medications should only be used with great caution, like zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta), as they may increase confusion and the risk of falls.
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Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease – Homeopathic Treatment
- Nux Vom – This is used when the patient is extremely sensitive to the words and actions of others and is always seeking attention.
- Mercurius – This is given to patients who have lost all sense of decency, have a weakened memory, and have an unpleasant breath, odor, a heavily coated tongue, and problems with vision.
- Ignatia – This is given to people who have an extremely sensitive mind, which further leads to depression and grief.
- Calcaria Carb – This is an effective homeopathic medicine used in cases where the brain and other organs do not develop properly.
- Lycopodium – This medicine is used when the affected patients experience great depression and constantly worry about themselves and their activities.
- Chamomilla – This is used to treat acute sensitiveness when the patient tends to get angry very easily.
Alzheimer’s Disease – Lifestyle Tips
- Indulge in regular exercise, and focus on cardiovascular exercises.
- Follow a healthy diet which is low in fat, and rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Engage socially and stimulate your intellect continuously.
What Are Recommended Exercise For a Person With Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s Disease & Pregnancy- Things To Know
- It was studied that a woman’s pregnancy history may be linked to her future risk of Alzheimer’s.
- The study stating the link between Alzheimer’s disease and pregnancy is still under scrutiny.
Common Complications Related To Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s can cause a person to have trouble in performing the following actions:
- Communicating about experiencing pain
- Reporting symptoms of other illnesses
- Following a prescribed treatment plan
- Noticing or describing the side effects of medication
- Performing physical functions like swallowing, balancing, and controlling bowel and bladder functions, which can lead to further difficulty by inhaling food or liquid into the lungs, or lead to pneumonia and other infections.
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Q. What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?
A. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia and the most common type of dementia.
Q. What are the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease?
A. Alzheimer’s disease progresses from early (mild) stage to middle (moderate) stage and finally to late (severe) stage, where people lose the ability to communicate properly.