All About Alzheimer’s: Cause, Symptoms & Diagnosis

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Alzheimer’s disease is a widely recognized mental health issue that is irreversible in nature. It is a progressive brain disorder which gradually, over time, destroys thinking ability and memory. In advanced stages, the patient is often unable to undertake the simplest chores. The symptoms of this disease usually appear in mid-60s for most people, and might include unpredictable behavior and language problems, besides loss of memory. Alzheimer’s can hamper quality of life significantly if proper measures are not taken to diagnose it early and to manage it. Do note that Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the aging process.

All About Alzheimer’s

What Causes Alzheimer’s?

Usually, Alzheimer’s can be caused by a combination of environmental, genetic and lifestyle factors. In rare cases, specific genetic changes can cause someone to develop this disorder. Here are some more reasons:

  • Loss of connection between neurons or nerve cells is one of the main reasons for Alzheimer’s. Since neurons are responsible for transmitting messages between the various parts of a brain, and they carry messages from the brain to other organs and muscles, when they lose connectivity, symptoms like forgetfulness or inability to do simple tasks appear.
  • Abnormal clumps in the brain, known as amyloid plaques and tangled fiber bundles, known as tau or neurofibrillary are also another feature observed in Alzheimer’s patients.
  • When neurons or nerve cells in the hippocampus start dying, a person’s ability to remember things significantly declines. That is because this part of the brain is responsible for forming memories. In advanced stages, the brain tissue can shrink remarkably.

Is Alzheimer’s Different from Dementia?

Yes, it is. Dementia is a much broader term that describes a group of symptoms which affects memory, normal communication, and ability to carry out day to day activities, reasoning power, and cognitive functions. It is a syndrome and not a disease.

And Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which involves the formation of tangles and plaques in the brain, in most cases. Other kinds of dementia include Huntington’s diseases, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Read More: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Basics

How Does Dementia Typically Present Itself?

Dementia starts with simple phases of memory loss. Usually the person affected faces mild difficulty in recognizing familiar things or places and has trouble tracking time.

As dementia worsens, the affected person becomes more confused and forgetful. They can’t take decisions properly, ask the same questions repeatedly and become unable to take care of personal hygiene.

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s – Unlike dementia, Alzheimer’s can present symptoms like depression, apathy, disorientation and behavioral changes. Difficulty in swallowing food or walking might also be noticed in latter stages. And therein is the difference.

What is the Significance of Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s?

Though Alzheimer’s has no cure currently, an early diagnosis can help you manage the condition better and achieve a better lifestyle. Here is a closer look at how early diagnosis can help:

Treatment will be more effective: The sooner the treatment starts for Alzheimer’s or even dementia, the better are the chances of slowing the progression of the disease.

Diagnosis will be more accurate: In early stages, an Alzheimer’s patient will be able to answer questions more correctly than later on. Hence, conducting cognitive tests or understanding the patient’s history to diagnose the condition will be easier for the doctor.

It will empower the patient: An early diagnosis will help the patient take charge of all his financial and legal commitments, before the condition worsens. Moreover, the patient can start doing all of those things which he or she always wanted to do, like visiting children or grandchildren, travelling, and completing projects. He can also join support groups to manage the symptoms of the disorder in a better manner.

It will help the patient’s family: With early diagnosis, the patient’s family will get a better chance to understand the diseases and its progression, will get time to accept it, and it will help them have realistic expectations.

Signs to Predict the Onset of Alzheimer’s:

Usually, deterioration in behavioral and cognitive functions indicates Alzheimer’s. But this deterioration must be significant enough to make daily activities difficult for the patient. Here are some common symptoms that can help family members or doctors predict the onset of the disorder:

  • A decline in the ability to remember new information, repetitive questions, forgetting appointments, not recognizing a familiar route and misplacing personal objects are common signs.  
  • The patient might not be able to use judgment, reason, or understand safety risks. They might not be able to plan complex activities or manage finances.
  • The patient might not recognize familiar objects, faces, which are in front of him. He might not be able to wear clothes or use simple tools.
  • The patient might face trouble with speaking, thinking of common words, spelling or writing.
  • Alzheimer’s can cause personality changes like social withdrawal, depression, sudden mood changes, agitation, lack of interest, lack of empathy, compulsive-obsessive behavior or behavior that is socially unacceptable.

Role of Caregivers:

Whether it is a family member or a professional, caregivers have a big role to play when it comes to Alzheimer’s patients. They need to be patient with them, not disagree even when the patient gets facts wrongs or remembers the past incorrectly. A good caregiver will show love, respect, concern and support at every step. He or she will allow the patient to live in the moment and enjoy as much as they can.

In addition, a caregiver has to guide the patient to different rooms including the bathroom, change their clothes, feed them, involve them in hobbies, and help them exercise. A good caregiver will understand the patient’s mood and treat them accordingly, and can take them out for a short walk or to the local store now and then.

Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s:

It is not possible to diagnose Alzheimer’s with only a single test. So, usually, the doctor will understand the patient’s history, check his physical and neurological symptoms, and conduct various memory and cognitive tests to reach a conclusion. Here are the different tests that are usually performed:

Assessment of Cognitive Abilities:

In this test, questions about age, date of birth, what year it is, and name of the locality or the hospital may be asked. The patient might be asked to count backwards too. These questions will help assess how severe is the memory loss or how much cognitive impairment has happened.

Physical and Neurological Exams:

These will assess the patient’s overall neurological health, where the doctor will test muscle tone and strength, reflexes, sense of hearing and sight, balance as well as coordination. The doctor will also check if the patient is able to get up from a chair on his own and walk across the room.

Laboratory Tests:

The patient might have to undergo blood tests for vitamin deficiencies or thyroid disorders, if Alzheimer’s is suspected. These tests can help rule out other disorders which can cause confusion or memory loss.

Neuropsychological Tests:

These tests are conducted to assess the patient’s mental status, memory and thinking abilities, but in a much more extensive manner than a general cognitive assessment. Neuropsychological testing often compares a patient’s cognitive abilities and memory with others of the same age and educational background. These tests focus on aspects like attention, language, orientation, and executive functioning.

Brain Imaging Tests:

Some of these tests aim at detecting changes in the brain due to Alzheimer’s, but they are of the latest kind and only available in advanced clinics or hospitals. Other imaging tests try to detect visible abnormalities associated with disorders that are different from Alzheimer’s – like tumors, stroke or trauma. Here are some major brain-imaging technologies:  

  • MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging: In this test, a strong magnetic field and radio waves are used to create detailed images of the brain. These can detect if there is any shrinkage in those brain regions which are associated with Alzheimer’s. MRI can rule out other conditions which lead to cognitive impairment.
  • PET or Positron Emission Tomography: A low level radioactive tracer is injected into a vein during a PET scan. This tracer is often a special type of glucose which shows the activities in the different regions of the brain.
  • CT or Computerized Tomography: Cross-sectional images of your brain can be produced by this scan. It can rule out head injuries, tumors or strokes, which can cause cognitive impairment.
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid: If dementia has set in at a very young age or if it is progressing rapidly, the cerebrospinal fluid of the patient will be examined. If the fluid shows presence of biomarkers, it can indicate Alzheimer’s.

If you or someone close to is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, do not hesitate to call Medlife Labs at 8884222296 or visit labs.medlife.com, to undergo the above tests. Though Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease and has no cure, its progression can be arrested for some time, so that the patient can lead a better life. So, consult a doctor at the earliest and get diagnosed, so that the treatment, if needed, can start as soon as possible.

News on Alzheimer’s:

3K3A -APC Drug To Be Helpful In Reducing Chances For Alzheimer’s

– 23rd Jan 2019

Alzheimer’s is a model of dementia that affects a lot of individuals world wide.There are various other brain degenerative conditions that affect people as they age however the prominence of Alzheimer’s cannot be ignored. There are various research happening worldwide to solve the problem of Alzheimer’s.

In one recent research conducted at the University of South Carolina in Los Angeles, a new drug consisting activated C-protein which has the capability to protect brain cells and vessels from damage that can be caused due to inflammation. The anticoagulant properties of c-protient are reduced by a margin of 90 per cent while still maintaining most of its protective benefits in helping people who have suffered from stroke or trauma.

The drug is still in its testing stages, but with the promising results it has shown, the medical community hopes that this drug could solve the extensive damage caused to brain cells due to trauma and stroke with minimal side effects.

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