Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s disease, or senile dementia, is an irreversible and progressive disease that is the leading cause of dementia in older adults. It hinders the brain’s ability to think and memorize things, and it eventually leads to a disability to complete simple tasks. Scientists don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but it is probably a mix of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. What they can see is that a brain that is affected by Alzheimer’s disease has abnormal protein deposits that cause plaque and tangles in the brain, causing the neurons to stop functioning.

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Symptoms

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease get progressively worse over time. They begin with difficulty remembering things and lead to non-memory impairments like impaired judgement and reasoning. People with Alzheimer’s will be confused, have difficulty reading/writing, difficulty recognizing family members, have outbursts of anger, and be restless and agitated. In severe cases of Alzheimer’s, the patient will be unable to communicate, have seizures, experience extreme weight loss, develop skin infections, and will have difficulty swallowing. In some cases, Alzheimer’s leads to death by causing aspiration pneumonia—when a person cannot swallow correctly and food travels to the lungs instead of air.

Risk Factors 

Scientists do not know what causes Alzheimer’s, but physical activity, a healthy diet, and being socially active leads to a healthier life and can put off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Ongoing research is attempting to link Alzheimer’s to other conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. It is possible that Alzheimer’s can be spread genetically, but scientists do not know which gene carries it.

Detection

Alzheimer’s is detected by the family, friends, or caretakers when the symptoms arise. A doctor may diagnose a patient with Alzheimer’s after a series of cognitive, language, and memory tests, as well as brain scans such as MRI.

Prevention

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are medications to treat the symptoms. Medications such as Donepezil and rivastigmine regulate neurotransmitters to transmit messages between neurons better and offset the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Medications can also be prescribed to manage behaviors, such as anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety medication.

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