A is for Alzheimer’s Disease

December 11, 2021

Alzheimer’s disease is a miserable progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to atrophy with the death of neurons. It is the most common cause of dementia and is characterized by a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affects the individuals ability to function independently.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects the brain, leading to a decline in memory, thinking skills, and overall cognitive function. It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for approximately 60-80% of all dementia cases.

Symptoms: The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease usually develop slowly and worsen over time. The early signs often include memory loss, difficulty with problem-solving or decision-making, confusion, disorientation, and changes in mood or behavior. As the disease progresses, individuals may experience language problems, challenges with familiar tasks, difficulty recognizing loved ones, and changes in personality.

Brain Changes: Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the accumulation of abnormal protein deposits in the brain. These deposits form plaques (amyloid plaques) and tangles (neurofibrillary tangles) that disrupt the normal functioning of nerve cells, leading to their degeneration and eventual cell death. The areas of the brain involved in memory and cognitive processes are particularly affected.

Risk Factors: Advanced age is the most significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Other factors that may increase the risk include a family history of the disease, certain genetic factors (such as the presence of the APOE ε4 allele), history of head trauma, cardiovascular conditions, and lifestyle factors like lack of physical activity, smoking, and poor diet.

Diagnosis: The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease involves a comprehensive assessment of medical history, physical and neurological examinations, cognitive tests, and sometimes brain imaging (such as MRI or PET scans). It is important to rule out other possible causes of cognitive impairment.

Treatment and Management: Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but treatment options aim to manage symptoms, slow down the progression of the disease, and improve quality of life. Medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine may be prescribed to help with cognitive symptoms. Non-drug approaches, including cognitive stimulation, social engagement, regular exercise, and a healthy diet, are also important in managing the disease.

Care and Support: Alzheimer’s disease places a significant burden on individuals with the condition and their caregivers. Supportive care involves creating a safe and supportive environment, assisting with daily activities, managing behavioral and psychological symptoms, and accessing support services and resources for both the individual and their caregivers.


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