Understanding Alzheimer's: the disease of forgetfulness

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More than 40 million people around the world suffer from Alzheimer's disease, and that number is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years.

1. What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder what causes a progressive and irreversible loss of higher brain functions like memory, language skills, and perception of time and space.

2. At what age does Alzheimer's disease usually appear?

Alzheimer's disease usually occurs in people over 65 years. Although it is much less common, and only about 2% of Alzheimer's cases are early-onset, the disease can appear in people in their 30s, 40s, or 50s.

3. What happens in the brain of a person with Alzheimer's?

Actually how it begins is unknown Alzheimer's disease. Damage to the brain probably begins a decade or more before the first symptoms begin to appear.

The analysis of brains affected by Alzheimer's disease shows that in the early stages of the disease, before the first symptoms begin to appear, a abnormal accumulation of beta-amyloid protein deposits in the form of plates. The formation of neurofibrillary tangles from another protein called tau within neurons.

This makes brain neuronsstart to work less efficiently, that over time they lose their ability to function and communicate with each other, and eventually end up dying. As neurons die, the affected regions of the brain begin to shrink.

The loss of neurons and connecting synapses first affects the memory and language centers of the brain, eventually affecting the entire brain.

4. How long can a person live with Alzheimer's disease?

The time from the diagnosis of Alzheimer's to the death of the patient it varies. It will mainly depend on how young the person was at the time of diagnosis of the disease.

The average length of time between the appearance of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and death seems range from 4 to 16 years. In general, women with the disease they survive longer than men.

5. What are the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?

One of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is Loss of memory. Initially, they can be small mistakes such as difficulty remembering people's names, phone numbers or details of conversations.

Very remote memories (such as childhood memories) tend to remain relatively intact early in the disease, but eventually fade as the disease progresses. Sometimes, there may also be difficulty finding a correct word or a decrease in reading comprehension and / or the ability to write.

As the disease progresses, memory loss becomes more noticeable, for example, it may be difficult to remember how to get home. See 10 early symptoms of Alzheimer's.

6. How is Alzheimer's disease diagnosed?

For the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, aspects related to the general health of the patient, previous medical problems, the ability to carry out daily activities and the existence of changes in behavior and personality are taken into account.

Memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language tests, as well as blood and urine tests, will be done to rule out other possible causes of symptoms. Brain imaging such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will also be taken.

After the results of all these tests, there are two levels of diagnostic certainty:

  • Probable Alzheimer's disease when symptoms may be due to other causes.
  • Possible Alzheimer's disease when no cause has been found that may be responsible for the symptoms.

He definitive diagnosis Alzheimer's disease alone can be done through the autopsy after death by examination of brain tissue.

7. What causes Alzheimer's disease?

Although it is unknown what causes Alzheimer's disease, there are a number of factors that could increase risk of a person to suffer from this disease.

  • Family background. First-degree relatives of people with Alzheimer's are more than twice as likely to develop the disease as individuals with no family history.
  • Genetic mutations. The amyloid precursor protein (APP) gene present on chromosome 21, the presenilin 1 (PS1) gene on chromosome 14 and the presenilin 2 (PS2) gene on chromosome 1 have been found to be related to a increased risk of Alzheimer's. Certain polymorphisms have also been associated with Alzheimer's disease, such as the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) gene polymorphism. Currently, genetic testing for any genetic marker is not recommended as a test for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease, since even if these genes were present, the lack of an exact knowledge of their role does not offer a reliable analysis of their importance for a individual.
  • Diet and lifestyle.
  • Environmental factors.
  • Cognitive reserve. The educational attainment of people appears to have a profound influence on the probability of developing Alzheimer's disease. Those who are illiterate or have had little formal education are at higher risk of developing the disease.

8. Is there a cure for Alzheimer's?

Actually there is no cure for Alzheimer's, there are only palliative treatments to slow down and relieve symptoms.

9. Dying from Alzheimer's or dying from Alzheimer's?

A person does not die of Alzheimer's, dies with Alzheimer's after a sum of innumerable deaths (neuronal, functional, memory, character ...) that make Alzheimer's a very hard and very cruel disease.

It is the complications related to Alzheimer's disease that trigger death. One of the most common is pneumonia.

10. Should specialized help be sought if I am a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer's?

Yes and a hundred times yes. It is often very hard for family members to care for people affected by dementia or Alzheimer's. It is convenient to listen to specialists, to be advised and informed about how to care for people with Alzheimer's, especially when family members take care of people affected by this disease at home.

Video: Dementia versus Normal Memory Loss

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