Understanding Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms
What causes Alzheimer’s Disease?
The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease are not known. It results from a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Where genetic factors are involved, they may be passed down from generation to generation.
What we do know is that Alzheimer’s affects brain cells called neurons. The changes that are seen in the brain of an individual with Alzheimer’s disease include - Shrinkage of brain mass, the buildup of a protein called amyloid plaques, and the formation of tangles by another protein called Tau inside the neurons.
What are the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease?
- Age > 65 years
- Family history of parents or siblings with Alzheimer’s
- Being a woman
- Having other thinking or memory problems
- Certain genetics
- Down syndrome
- Head Injury
What are the symptoms of mild Alzheimer's disease?
In mild disease, the person seems healthy but has a progressing sense of loss of touch with the world around him/her. The realization may simply be that something is wrong. This stage lasts between two to four years. Some common signs include:
- Loss of memory
- Loss of initiative
- Poor judgment
- Difficulty doing normal activities
- Getting lost and forgetting the location of things
- Mood and personality problems
- Increased anxiety
What are the symptoms of moderate Alzheimer’s disease?
This is the stage when the person starts needing supervision and care, increasing the effort on family members. This stage can last between two and ten years. Some common signs and symptoms are:
- Increased memory loss and confusion
- Loss of attention span
- Difficulty speaking clearly
- Problems adjusting to new things or learning anything new
- Difficulty learning new things
- Problems with recognizing close people
- Loss of logical acuity
- Having hallucinations or delusions
- Impulsive behavior
- Increased aggression and anger
- Repetitive words or movements
- Difficulty doing complex tasks
What are the signs and symptoms of severe Alzheimer’s disease?
This is the stage where communication ceases and the person becomes completely dependent on care. Frequently, aspiration pneumonia becomes a terminal issue, because the person is unable to swallow properly without getting food or water into the lungs. Some of the signs and symptoms include:
- Communication becomes difficult or impossible
- Confusion between past and present
- Losing weight
- Having seizures
- Having difficulty eating and swallowing
- Having trouble with bladder and bowel movement control
- Sleeping more
- Making inappropriate sounds
What separates Alzheimer’s from dementia due to normal aging?
Almost everyone gets mild memory loss with normal aging. The main factor that separates someone with Alzheimer’s is that they have trouble with sequential day-to-day tasks and planning daily activities.
What can you do if you suspect you or someone you know has dementia?
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are medications that reduce symptoms and allow for better functioning or slow down the progression of the disease. Dementia may also be due to other factors that may be treatable. It is important that you speak to a medical professional and be better prepared for handling the condition as the disease progresses.