All You Need To Know about Alzheimer's Disease
Is your loved one not able to care for himself? Is he or she not aware of surroundings, misplacing regular objects, repeating things, difficulty recognizing and communicating with you? These are some of the signs of one of the most dreaded mental disorders known to human being i.e. Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer ’s disease is named after German psychiatrist and pathologist Alois Alzheimer. It is a progressive neurological disorder that gradually destroys vital brain functions. The chronic disease progresses slowly and aggravates over the time.
It is the most common cause or common form of dementia and about 60-70 percent people with Alzheimer ’s disease suffers from dementia.
How many people are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease?
- It is estimated that around 47 million people in the world are living with dementia including 5 million in India
- Nearly half the global numbers of dementia will be living in Asia in 2050
- About 3.7 million people in India are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia and this figure is likely to double by 2030
- People aged 60 and above are becoming victim of Alzheimer’s, with women constituting 70 percent of the total cases
What causes Alzheimer?
Experts believe that genetics and certain environmental factors are responsible for most of the cases. Although the cases are yet to be understood, the impact on the brain is evident i.e. it damages and kills brain cells.
Alzheimer leads to brain shrinkage. What known so far is that brain of an Alzheimer’s patient has typically two abnormalities:
These are clumps of protein known as beta-amyloid that destroys brain cells and interfere with cell to cell communication. However, the ultimate cause of the brain cells death in Alzheimer is still unknown.
The protein that transfers nutrients to the brain is called tau. The brain of an Alzheimer’s patient has several threads (neurofibrillary tangles) of this protein that accumulates in the brain cells. These tangles or threads, in turn, prevent the transfer of nutrients throughout the brain.
What are the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease?
- Age - The risk of getting Alzheimer’s increases greatly after 65
- Gender - Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as compared to men, for the simple reason they live longer.
- Down Syndrome - Most people suffering from down syndrome will eventually develop Alzheimer’s. It is due to extra copy of chromosome 21
- Past Head Trauma - People who experienced severe head trauma or injury in the past are prone to Alzheimer’s
- Family history - First-degree relative, parent or sibling suffering from the disease
- Heart Health - Many scientists believe that heart-related issues such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, smoking, obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise might raise risk factors of Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
Memory related problems are the most common signs which can be divided into following:
- Trouble in planning and solving things - such as difficulty following a recipe made several times earlier, problem in solving tasks involving numbers, etc.
- Daily tasks become challenging - such as going to a known location, forgetting rules of a favorite game, difficulty in completing ordinary tasks, etc.
- Time and place seems confusing - Forget where you are or how you get there or getting lost easily
- Frustration in conversing - Difficulty in remembering the right word for right person, place or thing. Stopping in the middle of a conversation or keep repeating while talking.
- Misplacing things - Putting things in unusual places like watch in refrigerator
- Poor decision making - Giving away money for no reasons, showering often or dressing for the wrong weather
How Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed?
There isn’t any standard procedure to detect Alzheimer’s disease. The doctor may ask about family history, changes in behavior, some memory tests, blood and urine tests, brain scan, etc. However, latest finding by American researchers could be a new hope in diagnosing the disease early.
The eye test developed by researchers can spot plaque build-up in the brain before the emergence of symptoms. The most interesting aspect of this test is that it is non-invasive i.e. it doesn’t need any sort of injection before test.
Is Alzheimer's disease curable?
There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but taking medications, sensory therapy and making lifestyle changes can help the patients in overcoming symptoms.
Researches around the world are currently finding out more about the Alzheimer's disease and once they get a better understanding of it, it would be easier to find treatments.
If you or your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s, talk to your doctor and explore the various options for managing the disorder.
1. WHO: 10 facts on dementia(2017, April). read more
2. 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's(n.d.). Alzheimer's Association read more
3. What Is Alzheimer's?(n.d.). Alzheimer's Association read more
4. Alzheimer's disease(2016, March 17). NHS read more
5. World Alzheimer’s Day: 3.7 mn suffer from disease in India, will double by 2030, fear experts(2016, September 21) read more