Alzheimer’s – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Alzheimer’s is a type of syndrome that causes the brain to shrink and can make a person’s memory disappear. This disease makes some cells in the brain do not function which results in decreased ability of the brain.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia (decreased ability of brain function) that causes problems with memory, thoughts and behavior. Alzheimer’s symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily activities.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities that are serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases.

Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. The biggest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. But Alzheimer’s is not just an old age disease.

Alzheimer’s worsens over time. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, in which the symptoms of dementia gradually worsen over several years. In the early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to have conversations and respond to their environment.

Alzheimer’s hasn’t had a cure to date, but treatment for symptoms is available and research continues. Although current Alzheimer’s treatment cannot stop the development of Alzheimer’s, temporary treatment can slow the severity of symptoms of dementia and improve the quality of life for those suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Currently, there are ongoing efforts around the world to find better ways to treat Alzheimer’s disease, delay its attack, and prevent it from developing.

Causes of Alzheimer’s

Although this forgetfulness disease generally occurs in those who are elderly, Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of the aging process. The cause of Alzheimer’s is derived from two types of nerve damage: atrophic nerve cells experience a decrease in function or the presence of protein deposits that occur in the brain.

Alzheimer’s can also be caused by the presence of protein in the blood or commonly called ApoE (apolipoprotein E), which the body uses to move cholesterol in the blood. In some cases, there are types of ApoE that are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition, the cause of Alzheimer’s can also occur in those who have high blood pressure and cholesterol. For rare cases, head injuries also make people potentially have Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s Risk Factors

Risk factors that cannot be avoided to develop Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Aging
  • Certain innate genes
  • Family history of Alzheimer’s

While factors that can be changed can help prevent Alzheimer’s include:

  • Maintain a healthy cardiovascular system
  • Exercise regularly
  • Following a varied and healthy diet
  • Control the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, smoking, and hypertension
  • Follow lifelong learning and cognitive training

While several studies have shown that engaging mentally and socially can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Factors that can increase risk include:

  • Have severe or recurrent traumatic brain injuries
  • Exposure to several environmental contaminants, such as toxic metals, industrial chemicals, and pesticides

Alzheimer’s Stages

The development of Alzheimer’s is divided into three main stages, including:

  1. Preclinical, before symptoms appear
  2. Mild cognitive impairment, when symptoms are mild
  3. Dementia

In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association describes seven stages along cognitive decline, based on the severity of symptoms. The scale ranges from uninterrupted state, through mild and moderate decreases, to finally achieve a very severe decline.

The diagnosis usually does not become clear until stage four, described as mild Alzheimer’s or early stages.

Alzheimer’s symptoms

In some of the more severe cases, people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease can forget the people they love, forget how to dress, and to forget how to use the toilet.

Over time, other symptoms of Alzheimer’s that can appear, including:

  • Easy to forget, even for things that are often done or things that have just been done
  • Difficult to focus
  • Difficulty doing normal activities
  • Feeling confused or frustrated, especially at night
  • Mood changes such as anger, anxiety to depression
  • Feeling confused and lost easily
  • It’s hard to walk and has a bad balance
  • Difficult to communicate
  • Changes in attitude, for example, become more aggressive or more suspicious
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Having a small stroke
  • Easily depressed
  • Have low blood sugar levels
  • Thyroid problem
  • Brain tumor

Alzheimer’s disease makes the brain tissue sufferers suffer damage from time to time, which in the medical world is called brain atrophy. This condition makes the brain get smaller and smaller. This usually occurs in people over the age of 65 years.

Alzheimer’s diagnosis

After you recognize the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the doctor will usually do a physical examination and mental tests, such as;

  • Test your memory
  • Test your verbal/language skills
  • Test your problem solving skills
  • Analyzing thinking abilities
  • See the mood

Not only that, the doctor can also do a brain scan as a whole to decide whether a person has this forgotten disease. The following are 2 steps to detect the presence of Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): uses strong magnets and radio waves to create images from the brain. An MRI can indicate whether a person has had a stroke, tumor, or blood clot that can cause symptoms.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET): is a tool that can show plaque build up in the brain, plaque buildup has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s treatment

Until now there is no Alzheimer’s drug. However, there are drugs that can be used to slow down development, especially in the initial stages.

  • Donepezil, galantamine, and rivastigmine. Alzheimer’s drugs can delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s worse.
  • Memantine (Namenda). A brain chemical called glutamate is a substance that damages the brain. Alzheimer’s drug is believed to be able to protect nerve damage that occurs due to glutamate. This drug has fewer side effects than other drugs.

Please note, this drug is a combination of donepezil and memantine, which is commonly used for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s:

  • Medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), and venlafaxine (Effexor), can help relieve depression
  • Sleeping pills to fight insomnia
  • Anxiety disorders medications, such as alprazolam (Xanax), buspirone (BuSpar), lorazepam (Ativan), and oxazepam (Serax)
  • To relieve paranoia, confusion, hallucinations, doctors can recommend antipsychotic drugs, such as haloperidol (Haldol), olanzapine (Zyprexa), and risperidone (Risperdal).

Can Alzheimer’s Disease Prevent?

There are several things you can do to reduce the risk or delay the onset of dementia, such as:

  • Stay physically fit and mentally active
  • Eat healthy and balanced food, and maintain a healthy body weight
  • Stop smoking and reduce drinking alcohol

This method can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve overall mental health.

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