This is one of the most common causes of dementia and is characterized by memory loss and difficulties in thinking, problem solving and language. It can also be described as a neurological disorder where the brain cells die therefore leading to memory loss and cognitive decline.
The disease is irreversible therefore causes memory loss and the ability to think which finally leads one to not be able to perform even the simplest of tasks.
Majority of people usually start to see the first symptoms when they are in their mid 60s and according to experts, a large number of people are affected and the disease is known to be the sixth leading cause of death in the US.
The disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer who in 1906 was able to notice changes in the brain tissue of a lady who died of an unsual mental illness. The symptoms noted by the doctor included memory loss, language problems and unpredictable behavior.
When the woman died, the doctor examined the brain and found the presence of abnormal clumps which are called amyloid plaques and tangled bundles of fiber which are called neurofibrillary or tau tangles.
The tangles and plaques found in the brain were considered to be some of the main signs of the disease and apart from that, there is the loss of connections between nerve cells in the brain. The neurons in the body are responsible for transmitting various signals from the brain to other organs and muscles.
One of the surest signs of Alzheimer’s is the occasional memory lapses. While it’s normal to lose track of certain objects such as keys or the name of something, when you have the disease, one’s memory loss seems to worsen therefore affecting the way one functions at work and even at home.
Some signs to be aware of include:
It is common for people with the disease to start losing the sense of what day or season it is. They may also not know where they are or even their current life circumstances. The disease may disrupt the brain’s ability in interpreting what one is able to visualize therefore making it difficult to understand the surroundings. With time, the problems will eventually lead to one getting lost especially in familiar places.
People who have this disease may find it difficult to speak the right words, identify objects, express thoughts and even take part in conversations. As times goes by, their ability to read and write will start to decline.
The disease is known to cause difficulty in concentration and thinking especially about abstract concepts such as numbers. With this disease, it has been found out that one will have difficulty in managing finances, balance checkbooks, keep track of bills and even be able to pay them on time.
The difficulties may progress leading to the inability of recognizing and dealing with numbers.
People who have the disease will start experiencing some changes which include depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, mood swings, distrust in others, irritability, aggressiveness, changes in sleeping habits,loss of inhibitions and delusions among others.
Experts have been able to observe that people with this disease do have difficulty in making the right decisions and judgements especially when confronted with common issues. For example conditions like driving or cooking can become extremely challenging.
Routine activities that could be conducted with ease especially those that required planning such as cooking meals, playing a game and driving will start to become a struggle. For people who have advanced stages of the disease will start to have difficulty in accomplishing tasks.
Experts believe that some of the causes of the disease may be as a result of a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors which affect the brain over a certain duration. In less than 5 percent of the cases, the disease may be brought about by certain genetic changes which virtually guarantee that a person will develop the disease.
The effects of the disease on the brain have been understood as it damages and kills the brain cells. When more and more brain cells die, it leads to the shrinkage of the brain and when observed under a microscope, there are two abnormalities noted.
These are basically described as clumps of protein known as beta-amyloid and are known to damage and destroy the brain cells. They do so by interfering with cell to cell communication. While the main cause of the disease is not known, a collection of the beta amyloid on the outside of the brain cells becomes a prime suspect of the disease.
Since brain cells are known to be dependent on internal support and transport systems to move nutrients and other essential materials, the system requires a vital nutrient known as tau.
For people with the disease, the threads of tau protein twist into abnormal tangles inside the cells therefore leading to the failure of the transport system.
There is no sure treatment method for the disease but certain drugs and methods can help relieve and ensure longevity of the patient. Drugs used to treat cognitive symptoms include cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine.