Alzheimer’s: causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention

Alzheimer’s it is a neurodegenerative disease, discovered in 1906 by the German psychiatrist and neurologist Alois Alzheimer, from whom this pathology is named. It is a progressive disorder, in which brain cells degenerate and die. It is the most common cause of dementia, a constant reduction in thinking, behavioral and social skills. In addition, it alters a person’s ability to function independently.

This condition does not have a treatment that allows its cure. In the advanced stages, there is a severe loss of brain function. Next, in this article you will find detailed information on this issue that affects thousands of people worldwide every day.

Contents

What is Alzheimer’s?

It usually appears after 65 years of age. The person who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease experiences a series of microscopic changes in the tissue of some parts of his brain. Also, a progressive decrease in a chemical vital for brain function, called acetylcholine.

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The main function of this substance is to allow nerve cells to communicate with each other, it is also related to mental activities such as learning, memory and thinking.

Types of Alzheimer’s

There are three types, it is based on the stage the patient is in and they are the following:

Mild state

At this stage the patient forgets little things, such as where they left the keys. The damage is still undetected. They can still work and drive, but begin to experience lack of spontaneity, initiative, and some depressive traits.

Symptoms of apathy, isolation, and mood swings appear.

Moderate state

At this stage the disease no longer goes unnoticed by relatives and friends. Difficulties occur in performing routine tasks. Also, loss of reasoning and comprehension skills. They show symptoms of apathy and depression.

Serious condition

During this stage the areas of cognitive function are affected. Loss of the ability to speak properly. Does not recognize family and friends. Similarly, there is constant disorientation. Patients with advanced disease forget to walk and sit, and also lose control of their organic functions. They can be immobile for hours without activity. They are not independent, they need someone to take care of them and feed them. Many patients can reach a vegetative state.

Apart from the previous classification, there is also another one that allows you to determine the status of the disease and is the following:

Functional Assessment Staging Test (FAST)

It is divided into seven phases according to the functional repercussions.

Global Impairment Scale (GDS)

It is also divided into seven phases, but based on cognitive deficits.

Clinical Dementia Rating

It is divided into five phases, which are based on the study of six variables: memory, orientation, judgment, social life. Also, home operation and self-care.

Causes of Alzheimer’s

It is a very complex disease, its causes are unknown. But there are a number of factors that increase the possibility of having this condition.

The elements to consider are the following:

Age

It affects people between 60 and 65 years of age, although there have also been cases among people under 40 years of age. The average age of diagnosis is in the 80s.

Sex

It is frequently diagnosed in female persons.

Family background

A large part of the patients have a family history.

Genetic factor

This disease is associated with mutations in the amyloid precursor protein (APP) gene, presenilins 1 and 2, and also in the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE).

Environmental factors

Tobacco and fat consumption have been shown to be a risk factor for this disease.

Alzheimer’s symptoms

This disease begins with negligible memory loss. However, as time progresses this deficiency becomes noticeable, because the affected person will be unable to carry out their daily routine and also the intellectual area is compromised. The disease affects memory. Among the neurological symptoms that an individual diagnosed with this condition presents are:

  • The reasoning ability suffers an alteration.
  • Short-term memory loss.
  • Long-term memory loss.
  • Disorientation.
  • Loss of vocabulary
  • You lose control of your own muscles.
  • Character changes (apathy, irritability, confusion, listlessness).

Alzheimer’s treatment

The evolution of the disease is slow. Years can pass, from the beginning of the symptoms until their most serious stage. There is no treatment that reverses the degeneration process, but drugs are available that slow the progress of the disease, in specific stages.

Anticholinesterase drugs or acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, which are drugs used to increase acetylcholine levels in the brain. In the early stages of the disease for memory and attention impairment, drugs such as tacrine, donepezil, galantamine, memantine, and rivastigmine are used.

In some patients these medications can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. This treatment is combined with another symptomatic one. In fact, it is usually indicated when the patient has symptoms such as depression, agitation. Also, sleep disturbances, or complications such as constipation, urinary tract infections, and ulcers.

When the disease is in the moderate phase, neuroleptic drugs are indicated to counteract psychotic symptoms. Though, its use should only be in extreme cases because they usually affect some neural systems. The people who care for the patient play an important role in making treatment more effective. Some recommendations to keep in mind are:

  • Treat the patient according to his age.
  • Always keep a positive tone, don’t give orders.
  • Explain things in a clear and relaxed way so that the patient understands what is being said.
  • Guide the patient towards their own independence.

Prevention

To prevent Alzheimer’s disease it is recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Also, perform exercises to strengthen memory and intellectual function.

A control in modifiable or treatable risk factors can reduce the probability of suffering from this pathology. These factors are as follows:

Educational level

It helps the continuous exercise of memory and strengthens the brain.

Cardiovascular health

There are elements of cardiovascular health that can affect a patient’s cognitive system. Examples of this are high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes mellitus, obesity, physical inactivity.

Head trauma

Loss of consciousness due to an impact.

Depression

It can be an influencing factor in the development of this pathology or of a cerebral vascular disease.

Seven minute test

There is a seven minute test, which is used for early detection of the disease. This test is based on areas that are normally affected by the pathology.

The seven minute test is based on the following:

Orientation

Identify the day, month and year in which it is.

Memory

Identify 16 figures on four different picture cards. The type of object or figure must be indicated. At the end, you are asked to repeat the 16 identified figures and objects that you can remember.

Visual perception

The drawing of a clock is requested with the hands marking: twenty to four.

Language

In this part of the test, oral fluency is assessed. To do this, you must name all the animals you can remember in one minute.

Reinforcement activities

A final recommendation is to carry out activities that strengthen the cognitive area such as: speaking several languages, playing musical instruments. In the same way, read, practice intellectual games such as chess, among others.

Also learn about the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

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