People with the disease have beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. The disease, which manifests itself only with simple forgetfulness in the initial phase, may progress to the point where the patient forgets the events of the recent past and cannot recognize his family members and close environment as time goes on. In the more advanced stages of the disease, patients find it difficult to meet their basic needs and become in need of care.
What is the Difference Between Alzheimer's and Dementia?
Dementia is not a single disease name; it is the general name given to all of the disorders with memory and similar mental abilities. All of the dementia diseases reveal disease-specific findings by causing cell death in the brain, causing some variability in the brain, and revealing disease-specific findings. Alzheimer's disease is one of the most common dementia diseases.
What Are the Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease?
Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease vary according to the stage the patient is in. However, in general, symptoms can be divided into two different categories: mental and physical.
- Memory loss,
- Loss of language skills,
- Regression in visual-spatial skills,
- Abstract thinking and judgment disorder,
- Personality and behavioral changes,
- Inability to take care of oneself,
- Physical dysfunction is the most common symptom.
In addition, patients may experience increased levels of paranoia, delirium, aggression, rhythm disturbances in metabolism, anxiety, depression, and phobias, depending on the stage. Depression is one of the most devastating effects of this disease. Sometimes it can be even more challenging than the disease itself.
Alzheimer's Disease Stages
Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease In short, it consists of three stages,
- Usually the first 2-4 years of the disease,
- Frequent recent memory problems
- Subject/question repetition,
- There may be mild difficulties in self-expression,
- Difficulty may begin with writing and using tools,
- Depression may develop
- Personality changes may accompany
- Inability to learn new skills
- Denial of the disease
- Irritability and indifference,
- There are no serious problems in daily life other than the disruptions that careful observers may notice.
- It is usually the 2–10-year period of the disease,
- The gradual disappearance of past experiences and learned information,
- Increased difficulty coping with problems
- Progressive memory impairment affects life in various areas,
- Disorientation, difficulty establishing a cause-and-effect relationship,
- High risk of loss
- May have a sleep disorder
- Behavioral symptoms become more pronounced.
- Needs help in activities of daily living
- Memory problems and confusion are even more pronounced,
- Difficulty recognizing relatives
- Can't learn new information
- Significant difficulty with several-step tasks (such as dressing)
- Difficulty coping with new situations
- Delusions and paranoia, blaming relatives (theft), narrating events that did not happen as if they happened (story writing, delirium)
- Average 1-3 years,
- The past and the present are confused; he cannot recognize his relatives,
- Communication is severely impaired,
- There may be falls, bedridden,
- Swallowing problems, incontinence,
- Psychiatric symptoms are much more pronounced,
- Completely in need of care, usually lost due to pneumonia and other infections
What causes Alzheimer's?
Although Alzheimer's is a disease that has been the subject of scientific research for many years, the cause of its development has not yet been determined. However, possible reasons that are considered a risk factor in the emergence of the disease, or, in other words, that may play a role in the development of the disease, are as follows:
- Advanced age
- Having a family history of Alzheimer's
- Having Down Syndrome
- Past head traumas
- Sleep disorder
- Insufficient physical activity
- Smoking or being constantly exposed to secondhand smoke
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Having poorly controlled type 2 diabetes
- Inadequate, unbalanced, and unhealthy diet
Considering the studies investigating the incidence of Alzheimer's disease in two different sexes, it is seen that the incidence of Alzheimer's disease is slightly higher in women than in men. However, the possibility that this situation may be related to the higher average life expectancy of women is emphasized.
Apart from the above reasons, which are considered risk factors for the development of the disease, beta-amyloid plaques seen around dying brain cells are found in brain tissue examinations performed on Alzheimer's patients. Studies on the factors that can cause these formations and the death of brain cells in patients provide a glimmer of hope for determining the exact cause of the disease in the future.
When a physician is consulted for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, an anamnesis is taken from the patient and his relatives, and then the person's neurological examination is performed. After the neurological tests, when the physician deems it necessary, neurocognitive tests, radiological imaging such as MR, CT, PET, and laboratory tests for the examination of some hormones, vitamins, and other necessary values are requested. In light of the findings obtained, the person is re-evaluated. In some cases, genetic testing may also be done to clarify the diagnosis. Alzheimer's is diagnosed in light of all the data and especially according to the course of the disease.
Is There a Treatment for Alzheimer's?
Despite extensive research on Alzheimer's disease, there is no treatment method for curing the disease yet. However, there are different treatment approaches to slow the progression of the disease and reduce existing complaints. Treatments tailored to the individual are usually started with the use of low-dose medication. In the following period, the patient is re-examined and the dose of the drugs is increased when necessary. It is aimed at increasing the quality of life of the person and the patient's relatives thanks to the treatment methods that aim to enable the person to do his or her daily activities on his or her own.
What Are the Preventive Methods That Can Be Used in Alzheimer's Disease?
Exercising, eating healthy, and avoiding alcohol, smoking, and substance use are useful methods to delay the onset of this disease. Since cardiovascular diseases and obesity increase the risk of this disease, it can be a preventive factor for people to maintain their physical activity levels as they get older, especially to increase neuroplasticity by exercising. Diets rich in fish, vegetables, and fruits also come to the fore in protecting the general health status of people. In addition, breathing exercises It is important for patients prone to anxiety and depression.