Disease at a Glance: Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is an irreversible brain disorder that affects a person’s memory and intellectual skills to an extent that it interferes with his or her day-to-day life. The disease usually begins with mild symptoms like forgetfulness, which may or may not be noticeable to family, friends or co-workers.
But as the disease progresses, the condition worsens and patients can become disoriented and lose awareness of surroundings, fail to recognize family & friends, exhibit changes in personality & behaviour, require assistance in basic day-to-day activities like eating, bathing, dressing, using the toilet, etc. Not everyone who suffers from memory loss has Alzheimer’s – occasional memory lapses are extremely common even in healthy individuals.
But when memory loss persists and, in fact, goes from bad to worse, there is cause for concern. People with Alzheimer’s tend to repeat statements again and again, forget recent conversations & events and not remember them even later, be clueless about familiar places or things, routinely misplace their possessions, wander around or appear lost, etc.
Stages of Alzheimer's Disease
|Mild: Symptoms include forgetfulness, speech problems|
|Moderate: Disorientation, incontinence, diffculty remembering recent events or things|
|Severe: Loss of memory, behavioural changes, extremely disoriented|
Alzheimer’s is more common in the elderly, but it can strike people in the 30s, 40s and 50s. This is called younger-onset Alzheimer's. The disease has no known cure – but there are medications that can delay the progress of the disease to enable a better quality of life.
The exact cause of the disease is not known, but microscopic studies of the brain show that patients with Alzheimer's have large amounts of protein and fibre clumps (or plaques & tangles in medical terminology) within and between their brain cells. This reduces their effectiveness – the main function of brain cells is to carry messages from and to the brain – and eventually they die. Over time the damage spreads, affecting nearly all the brain’s functions.
Key Diagnostic Tests: Brain Scanning (CT Scan / MRI)
Recommended Check-up: Neurological Examination
Doctor Specialty: Neurologist, Geriatric Specialist
Patient Helpline: +91-9846198471 / 9846198473 (Alzheimer’s & Dementia Related Disorders Society of India)
1. Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org)
2. NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk)
3. US National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov)
4. Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org)
5. Alzheimer’s & Related Disorders Society of India (www.ardsi.org)
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