by AK Team
WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
In neurology, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder in which dementia symptoms keep on getting more worse over a period of time.
As it is a progressive disease, in its early stages it begins with mild memory loss that over a period of time leads to the loss of the ability to even have a normal conversation or response to the environment and also leads to short-term memory loss and as the disease progresses it further leads to even long-term memory loss which is also known as amnesia.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CAUSES OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease in not yet fully understood. According to the scientists that study neurology, Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in and around the cells of the brain. And also inspite of its actual cause being unclear, the scientists know that this process of abnormal build-up of the proteins begin many years before the actual symptoms of the disease appear.
Due to this abnormal build-up of the proteins around the brain cells, the function of the brain cells, that is the neurons, is disrupted and this triggers a series of toxic events. The neurons are damaged, they form a loose connection with each other and eventually die.
As the neurons die, there is automatically a decrease in chemical messenger (neurotransmitters) and its activity between the brain cells.
Usually levels of neurotransmitter, acetylcholine are specifically low in the brains of people suffering with Alzheimer’s disease.
According to scientists, Alzheimer’s disease is mainly caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect and damage the brain over a period of time.
Over a period of time, different areas of the brain shrink and the areas responsible for memories are amongst the first one’s to be affected and this causes short-term and long-term memory loss.
Scientists that are trying to find out the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease are mainly focused on the role of two main proteins which abnormally build-up around the brain cells
- Beta-amyloid are the fragments of a larger protein and when these fragments cluster together, they appear to have a toxic effect on the brain cells and to disrupt cell to cell communication.
- These clusters form larger deposits called amyloid plaques that also include other cellular debris
- Tau proteins play a very important role in a brain cell’s internal support and transport system to carry nutrients and other essential materials.
- In Alzheimer’s disease, tau proteins change shape and organize themselves into structures called neurofibrillary tangles.
- These tangles disrupt the transport system of the neurotransmitters and are also toxic to the brain cells.
STAGES AND SYMPTOMS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Alzheimer’s disease is the disease that disrupts the neurology of the entire brain. There are basically 7 stages of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Stage 1 : Normal Outward Behavior
- As Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, in its initial stages one may not even notice any of the symptom.
- In this stage the person will be having a normal outward behavior and is able to do daily activities normally.
- Only a PET scan, and imaging test that shows how the brain is working, can reveal whether they have Alzheimer’s or not.
- Stage 2 : Very Mild Changes
- One still might not get a catch on the symptoms that the person is having as the symptoms are so unnoticeable that they even be missed by the doctor.
- The person might start forgetting some words or just simply misplacing objects,
- At this stage the subtle symptoms of Alzheimer’s do not interfere with the person’s daily life activities.
- Stage 3 : Mild Decline
- It is at this point the symptoms come into notice slightly
- Quiet changes can be observed in the person’s thinking and reasoning, such as:
- They start asking the same question over and over again
- They start forgetting something they have just read
- They have more trouble in making plans or organizing things
- They cannot remember names when they meet new people
- In this stage basically the short-term memory loss initiation takes place
- Stage 4 : Moderate Decline
- In this stage the symptoms that the person was having in the third stage become more obvious and one starts noticing things like:
- The person starts forgetting details about themselves
- They have trouble in putting the right date
- They forget what month or year it is
- They do not understand what is being said to them
- They struggle to do tasks with multiple steps like cleaning the house
- This stage is basically the beginning of the long-term memory loss
- Stage 5 : Moderately Severe Decline
- The person might start losing track of where they are and what time is it and they might even start forgetting their details like address, phone number and other details.
- They might even get confused about the clothes to wear according the season.
- One can help the person out by laying their clothes in the morning.
- Stage 6 : Severe Decline
- As Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, over the period of time the person might recognize faces but forget names and they might also mistake a person for someone else.
- Sometimes they might even think that they have to go to their work while they are not working anymore.
- At this stage one might struggle to:
- Eat the food by themselves
- Get dressed
Stage 7 : Very Severe Decline
- This is a very severe stage and the person struggles a lot to even do the daily normal activities.
- The person struggles to even walk, talk, sit during this period.
- In this stage the person needs a lot of help from the caregivers and is almost not even to do their daily tasks alone.
DIAGNOSIS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
The field of neurology has advanced so much that there are various tests for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
An important part of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease includes being able to explain the symptoms by a close family member.
Some of the diagnostic tests for its diagnosis are listed below:
- Physical and neurological examination
- Lab tests such as
- CT scan
- PET scan
- Amyloid PET imaging
- Tau PET imaging
- Future diagnostic tests
IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE CURABLE?
Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease in neurology but there are certain treatments and medications available that can reduce its symptoms and can make the person’s condition a bit better. Emotional support also matters a lot in this case so that the person can easily cope up with the daily life activities.