What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Memory ‘gaps’ happen to everyone and usually don’t mean anything serious. The problem arises when these memory troubles worsen and persist over a long period. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia – it starts as memory loss that progresses over time due to shrinking of the brain (increasing risks of brain bleeds even with minor trauma). As the disease is of a progressive nature, Alzheimer’s patients are not able to lead an independent lifestyle and are eventually taken care of by family and friends or various other programs and services.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s patients experience a number of symptoms such as repeating words or sentences, forgetting events or appointments, family members, friends, objects used daily, misplacing belongings, losing one’s way in familiar surroundings. As a result, they have problems making rational decisions and even forget to carry out basic tasks like getting dressed and taking care of ones hygiene. Alzheimer’s can also lead to depression, social withdrawal and aggressiveness, which adds to the challenges of its management.
What causes Alzheimer’s?
In 1906, Dr. Alois Alzheimer discovered certain plaques and tangles of neuronal fibers in the brain tissue of a person who had died of what is now known as the Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Although it is still believed that these plaques and the tangled fibers can lead to the disease, it doesn’t end there. Environmental factors ( like air pollution, head trauma, etc), genes (especially Downs Syndrome, family members affected), and lifestyle (excess smoking, alcohol consumption, irregular sleep cycle, obesity and more) also contribute to AD. While it commonly occurs with increase in age, known as late onset AD (after the age of 65), early onset AD (before the age of 65) has also seen an increase.
Is there a way to prevent Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s patients live for eight to ten years post diagnosis and the leading causes of death are malnutrition, dehydration and infections. The only way to possibly prevent the disease, to some extent, would be to focus on modifying one’s lifestyle. Exercise, consumption of whole foods, quitting smoking and reducing consumption of alcohol would all be examples of doing so.
How is AD diagnosed?
Earlier, Alzheimer’s diagnosis was made only on autopsy of the brain. Now, we have biomarkers that detect the culprit of the disease. Neurological tests are done to have a general idea of the brain. Neuroimaging like the MRI and CT are done to rule out other causes of memory loss. PET scans are done to differentiate Alzheimer’s from other types of dementia.
Is AD curable/treatable?
At present, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, which means a patient cannot obtain complete restoration of their brain health. However, treatments that help in improving the symptoms and delay the inevitable progress of the disease are available.
A diagnosis of AD can be distressing for patients and families involved. Coping skills taught in counselling and support groups are strongly encouraged to help lift the burden of the disease, even if by just a little.
If you or a loved one is facing a brain, spine or nervous system disorder, Central Referral Hospital can help. Our neuroscience services offer advanced and compassionate care for a wide array of Neurological Disorders including Stroke (Ischemic or Hemorrhagic), Degenerative Spine diseases, Intervertebral Disc Prolapse, Brain and Spine Tumors, Epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, and more.
Visit: Department of Neurosciences, Central Referral Hospital, Tadong, Gangtok.
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