Alzheimer " 's Alzheimers Disease Alzheimer's Disease Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is the loss of intellectual and social abilities severe enough to interfere with daily functioning. It occurs in people with Alzheimer's disease because healthy brain tissue degenerates, causing a decline in memory and mental abilities. More than 4 million Americans have Alzheimer's. It usually develops in those ages 65 or older. This number is expected to triple in the next 20 years as more people live into their 80's and 90's.
Although there's no cure or way to prevent Alzheimer's disease, researchers have made progress in the last 5 years. Treatments are available that help improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer's. Also, more drugs are being studied, and scientists have discovered several genes associated with Alzheimer's, which may lead to new treatments to block progression of this disease. Caring for someone with Alzheimer's takes patience and a focus on the things a person can still do and enjoy. Those with Alzheimer's need support and affection from friends and family to cope Most people with Alzheimer's share certain symptoms that include, increasing forgetfulness, difficulties with abstract thinking, difficulty finding the right words, disorientation, loss of judgment, difficulty performing familiar tasks, and personality changes. Everyone has occasional lapses in memory.
It's normal to forget the names of people whom you rarely see, but it's not a normal part of aging to forget the names of familiar people and things. Alzheimer's disease goes beyond simple forgetfulness. It may start with slight memory loss and confusion, but it eventually leads to mental impairment that destroys a person's ability to remember, reason, learn and imagine. The course the disease takes and how rapidly changes occur vary from person to person. For some people the progression from simple forgetfulness to severe dementia takes 5 years. For others, it can take 10 years or more.
Alzheimer's usually progresses from mild to moderate to severe. People with mild Alzheimer's can usually live alone and function fairly well. People with moderate Alzheimer's may have greater difficulty coping without supervision. People with advanced Alzheimer's generally can no longer care for themselves. The causes of Alzheimer's aren't well understood.
But researchers have found that people with Alzheimer's have brain cells that become damaged and die for unknown reasons. A healthy brain has about 140 billion nerve cells called neurons. Neurons generate electrical and chemical signals that are relayed from neuron to neuron to help you think, remember and feel. Chemicals called neurotransmitters help these signals flow seamlessly between neurons. In people with Alzheimer's, neurons in the brain slowly die. As they die, lower levels of neurotransmitters are produced, creating signaling problems in the brain.
Alzheimer's is a complex disease that can be caused by a variety of things. Many risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease include age, heredity, and environment. Alzheimer's usually affects people older than age 65, but the average age at diagnosis is about 80. Women are more likely than men to develop the disease, in part because they live longer. Your risk of developing Alzheimer's appears to be slightly higher if a parent or sibling has the disease. Although the genetic mechanisms of Alzheimer's among families remain largely unexplained, researchers have identified a few genetic mutations that greatly increase risk in some families.
Researchers are studying environmental factors to discover both possible causes and prevention of Alzheimer's. Some people with Alzheimer's have deposits of aluminum in their brain. But scientists who " ve studied environmental sources of aluminum haven't found a link between aluminum and Alzheimer's Disease. Right now there's no one test to diagnose Alzheimer's disease. Instead, Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed through a process of elimination to rule out other diseases and conditions that can also cause memory loss. Small, undetected strokes can cause dementia by temporarily interrupting blood flow to the brain.
People with Parkinson's disease can also develop dementia. Depression can cause lapses in memory. Also, many older people are on multiple medications that may effect their ability to think clearly. To help diagnose Alzheimer's disease doctors usually use a person's medical history, do basic medical tests and mental status tests, and brain scans. Doctors may ask about a person's general health and past medical problems, and will also talk to a person's family or friends to get more information.
Blood and urine tests may be done to help doctors rule out other potential causes of the dementia. In some cases testing a small amount of spinal fluid also may help. They help doctors pinpoint specific problems a person may have with cognition. Doctors might ask questions like what day is it today? Or, when was World War II?
Doctors may want to take pictures of the brain using a computerized tomography scan, a magnetic resonance imaging scan and a positron emission tomography scan. By looking at a picture of the brain, doctors may be able to pinpoint any visible abnormalities. Using these methods, doctors can accurately diagnose about 90% of Alzheimer's cases. Alzheimer's can only be diagnosed with 100% accuracy from a brain autopsy, which can only be done after a person has died. Genetic testing for Alzheimer's is in its early stages.
Blood tests are available that can tell whether a person carries genetic mutations associated with Alzheimer's, but the tests can't tell if a person will or will not get the disease. Most people with Alzheimer's don't die from the disease itself but from a secondary illness or an infection. In advanced Alzheimer's disease people may lose all ability to care for themselves. They may have difficulty eating, become incontinent or be unable to take a walk and find their way back home. Alzheimer's Disease also increases the risk of other complicating health problems. Some people may develop pneumonia, infections, have an increased risk of falling which can lead to bone fractures, and head injuries.
Currently, there's no cure for Alzheimer's disease. Medications and care giving are the only treatments. There are medications that can be taken for Alzheimer's disease, but they can't stop or reverse the disease process. They may slow it down or reduce the symptoms. Doctors also prescribe drugs to improve behavioral symptoms that often accompany Alzheimer's, including sleeplessness, wandering, anxiety, agitation and depression. The treatment of Alzheimer's disease is still in its early stages.
But researchers are confident that new medications will be available in the future that do more than treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's. Right now there's no way to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.