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Alzheimer’s Disease: Causes & Symptoms

Alzheimer is a progressive, irreversible brain disorder that slowly destroys the patient’s memory, and thinking abilities. Eventually, damaging all mental functions, disabling them from doing anything. The disease disrupts the ability of a person to function independently.

In most cases, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease appear in the mid-60s, and it is amongst the most common reason for dementia in older adults.

Alzheimer’s Disease does not have a cure that can help alter the progression or the effects of the condition in the brain. Patients suffering from progressive stages can experience a severe or complete loss of brain function such as malnutrition, infection, dehydration, leading them straight to death.

Causes

Scientists believe that Alzheimer’s disease occurs because of lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors that slowly affect the brain over time.

According to studies, only 1 per cent, Alzheimer’s disease cases are caused because of specific genetic changes that guarantee a person will be developing the disease in future. These rare occurrences result in the patient experiencing the symptoms of the disease during the onset of middle age.

Medical professionals haven’t been able to understand the exact cause of the disease. But at its core believe that it develops because the brain proteins in the patient’s brain do not function normally, and disrupt the neurons (brain cells), that unleashes a series of toxic things. These neurons get damaged and lose connections with each other that eventually die.

The damage usually starts from the region that controls memory in the brain, but the process begins several years before patients complain about the first symptoms. The loss of neurons can spread in predictable patterns to other regions inside the brains. In the final stage, the disease causes the brain to shrink significantly.

Most researchers focus on the role of two proteins:

Plaques

Beta-amyloid is a small or the leftover fragment of a much larger protein. When all these fragments make a cluster, they can have a toxic effect on the neurons and disrupt cell-to-cell brain communication. These clusters overtime form larger deposits known as amyloid plaques, which include other cellular debris.

Tangles

Tau proteins play a key role in providing internal support and acts as a transport system of the neurons that carry various nutrients and essential materials inside the brain. During Alzheimer’s disease, tau proteins change its shape and organize themselves into neurofibrillary tangles. These tangles are toxic for the cells and can disrupt the transport system.

Symptoms

Memory loss is first alarming and the key sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Difficulty remembering recent conversations or events can be another significant symptom of the condition. As this disease progresses, the patient’s memory impairments become much worse, and other symptoms also occur.

At first, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease may be aware of the symptoms and may acknowledge that they are experiencing difficulty in organizing thoughts and remembering things. A friend or family member may be more likely to notice the aggressiveness of how these symptoms worsen.

Brain changes associated with the disease may lead to growing troubles with:

Memory

Everyone experiences occasional memory lapses. It’s normal to forget names, lose track of where you kept your phone or keys. But persisting, worsening memory loss that affects a person’s ability to work or function at home is a sure symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s Patients may (keep):

·         Repeating questions and statements, over and over

·         Forgetting appointments, events or conversations frequently, and not remembering them later

·         Getting lost in house/ familiar places

·         Routinely misplacing possessions, often keeping them in illogical locations and forgetting about it

·         Having trouble in using the right words to express thoughts, identify objects, or engage in conversations

·         Eventually, forget the names/ faces of family members & everyday objects

Thinking and reasoning

Alzheimer’s disease makes it difficult for the patient to think or concentrate, especially about abstract concepts like numbers.

Multitasking can be a major challenge for patients afflicted with the disease. They may find it difficult to balance chequebooks, manage finances, and pay bills on time. These difficulties may further progress into an inability to deal with or recognize numbers.

Making judgments & decisions

Patient’s ability to make reasonable judgments and decisions in daily situations will decline. For instance, they may make uncharacteristic choices in a social setting or interactions, or they may wear inappropriate clothes for the weather. They may find it difficult to respond effectively to daily life problems, including unexpected driving situations or food burning on the gas stove.

Planning & Performing Familiar Tasks

Once-routine lifestyle and activities that require proper sequential steps, such as playing a game or planning & then cooking a meal will become a struggle as the disease will progress. Eventually, patients with advanced Alzheimer’s symptoms forgets how to perform tasks as basic as taking a bath and getting dressing.

Changes in Behaviour& Personality

Brain changes that occur because of Alzheimer’s disease can also affect a patient’s mood and behaviour. Concerning problems may include:

·         Social withdrawal

·         Depression

·         Apathy

·         Mood swings

·         Irritability and aggressiveness

·         Distrust in others

·         Changes in sleeping habits

·         Loss of inhibitions

·         Wandering

·         Delusions, like believing that they are much younger

Preserved Skills

Many important skills are preserved in the human brain, even if the patient has Alzheimer disease for longer periods with worsened symptoms. These preserved skills include listening to or reading books, telling stories, singing, dancing, listening to music, doing crafts or drawing.

These skills can be preserved much longer because they are managed by parts of the brain, which are targeted in later stages of the disease.

When to seek Medical Help?

A number of medicals conditions, including treatable diseases, can result in dementia symptoms or memory loss. Patients concerned about their memory or thinking skills, should consult a doctor and go through an assessment and diagnosis.

Patients with dementia in their family history and Alzheimer’s Disease should share these details with their family doctor. They should go for a yearly checkup to prevent or manage any complication before it emerges.

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