Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease basically affects the memory of a patient. It all begins when people find it difficult remembering recent events, even though they might recall events that occurred years ago. It mostly happens to people who are 65 years and above.

As time goes on, other symptoms can appear. These include:

  • Difficulty communicating
  • Trouble focusing
  • Difficulty carrying out ordinary activities
  • Feeling confused or frustrated during the night
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Feeling disoriented and getting lost easily
  • Odd walk steps or poor coordination

People with Alzheimer’s might forget how to dress and feed themselves, use the toilet, and might even forget their loved ones because the brain tissue break down over time. A person can live with Alzheimer’s disease for just a few years or for a few decades. More often, however, people live with it for about 9 years. About 1 in 8 people age 65 and over has the disease. Women are more likely to have it than men.

What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease isn’t a normal process of aging, though people who get it are usually older. Scientists cannot establish why some people suffer from the disease and others don’t. However, they suspect that the symptoms it causes appears to emanate from two main types of nerve damage. The first is called neurofibrillary tangles which occurs when nerve cells get tangled. The second is nerve damage is when protein deposits called beta-amyloid plaques accumulates in the brain.

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A protein in blood called ApoE (apolipoprotein E), which the body uses to move cholesterol in the blood is suspected to be responsible for the brain damage.

There are a few types of ApoE that may be connected to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. It could be that some forms this ApoE is responsible for building plaques in the brain.

Also, genes is suspected to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. Someone with a parent who had the disease is more likely to suffer from it too.

People with high blood pressure and high cholesterol have a greater chance of getting Alzheimer’s, researchers say. Head injuries may seldom be a reason for the disease.

What are the Types of Alzheimer’s Disease?

There are two main types of the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. They are called early-onset Alzheimer’s and late-onset Alzheimer’s.

Nearly everyone with Alzheimer’s disease will eventually have the same symptoms — memory loss, confusion, trouble with once-familiar tasks, and making decisions. Though the effects of the disease are similar, there are two main types.

  • Early-onset Alzheimer’s – This type occurs to people who are in their 40s or 50. It mostly affects people who are younger than age 65. People with Down syndrome have a greater risk of suffering from the disease.Scientists have found a few ways in which early-onset Alzheimer’s is different from other types of the disease. People who have it appears to have more of the brain changes that are connected with Alzheimer’s. Also, this type also appears to be linked with a fault in a specific part of a person’s DNA: chromosome 14. In early-onset Alzheimer’s a form of muscle twitching and spasm are common signs.
  • Late-onset Alzheimer’s – This type of Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the disease. It affects people who are 65 and older. It may or may not be hereditary.

Familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD) is a form of Alzheimer’s disease that doctors believe is connected to genes. Members of at least two generations suffer from the disease in affected families. Most people with early onset Alzheimer’s have FAD.

What Is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?

This is mostly characterized by extreme memory loss. People as young as 40s and 50s are usually affected. People in their 30s are rarely affected. They find it very difficult to remember basic things. They can’t remember very close people and events in their lives. At times, they find it hard to remember the way back home.

READ ALSO: Down syndrome: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments

Alzheimer’s affects a person’s memory, ability to think clearly, and eventually take care of themselves, so people who have started noticing some symptoms will need a strong support system. Turn to family, friends, and local chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association and other groups to get started making a plan for the rest of your life.

How Will I Get Diagnosed?

There are several tests your doctor can perform to check if you have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. But there are several ways your doctor checks to see if you have it. You’ll also take tests that check your memory and to check how you tackle problems.

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You may also get imaging tests like a CT scan, which is a powerful X-ray that makes detailed pictures inside your body. Or you might get an MRI, which uses magnets and radio waves to create images. These imaging tests look for changes in your brain and can help rule out other causes of your symptoms.

How Do I Treat Early-Onset Alzheimer’s?

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Medications only help to delay or improve your symptoms for a few months to a few years to enable you get used to living independently. An important part of managing your condition is to stay as positive as you can. Try different forms of relaxation, like deep breathing or yoga. Get regular exercise and eat healthy food.

There are medications that can help with some symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Your doctor may prescribe drugs to help with memory loss, such as:

  • Donepezil (Aricept)
  • Galantamine (Razadyne)
  • Memantine (Namenda)
  • Rivastigmine (Exelon)
  • Donepezil/memantine (Namzaric)

Your doctor may also suggest antidepressants, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers to help manage other problems related to Alzheimer’s, like anxiety and insomnia.

How Should I Get Ready for the Future?

Once you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, there are plans you can start making now that will be greatly beneficial in the long run. You can contact a lawyer to learn about the arrangements you’ll be needing. Allow the people you love to make money and health decisions for you when you can no longer do them on your own. Get your family together to talk about your finances, and how much money you’re likely to need to get proper care.

Now is also the time to start building your team which may consists of friends, relatives, neighbors, and health professionals. Your family and your doctor can help you put a group together.

 

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