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Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder named after Alois Alzheimer, the person who first described it.

Symptoms

  • Is a progressive and fatal brain disease.
  • Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work or social life.
  • Alzheimer’s gets worse over time, and it is fatal.
  • Is the most common form of dementia (the loss of memory) and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life

10 warning signs of Alzheimer's

  1. Memory loss: Forgetting recently learned information is one of the most common early signs of dementia. A person begins to forget more often and is unable to recall the information later.
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks: People with dementia often find it hard to plan or complete everyday tasks. Individuals may lose track of the steps involved in preparing a meal, placing a telephone call or playing a game.
  3. Problems with language: People with Alzheimer’s disease often forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to understand. They may be unable to find the toothbrush, for example, and instead ask for "that thing for my mouth.”
  4. Disorientation to time and place: People with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost in their own neighborhood, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home.
  5. Poor or decreased judgment: Those with Alzheimer’s may dress inappropriately, wearing several layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold. They may show poor judgment, like giving away large sums of money to unknown people.
  6. Problems with abstract thinking: Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have unusual difficulty performing complex mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are for and how they should be used.
  7. Misplacing things: A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer .
  8. Changes in mood or behavior: Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may show rapid mood swings – from calm to tears to anger – for no proper reason.
  9. Changes in personality: The personalities of people with dementia can change dramatically. They may become extremely confused, suspicious, fearful or dependent on a family member.
  10. Loss of initiative: A person with Alzheimer’s disease may become very passive, sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual or not wanting to do usual activities.

If you recognize any warning signs in yourself or a loved one, then consult a doctor. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other disorders causing dementia is an important step to getting appropriate treatment, care and support services.

Source: Sailesh Mishra- Founder President, Silver Innings Foundation

Alzheimer's and the brain

As we become old, our ability to think and remember also becomes slow. But, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work are not a normal part of aging. They may be a sign that brain cells are failing.

The brain has 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). Each nerve cell communicates with many others to form networks. Nerve cell networks have special jobs. Some are involved in thinking, learning and remembering. Others help us see, hear and smell. Still others tell our muscles when to move.

To do their work, brain cells operate like tiny factories. They take in supplies, generate energy, construct equipment and get rid of waste. Cells also process and store information. Keeping everything running requires coordination as well as large amounts of fuel and oxygen.

In Alzheimer’s disease, parts of the cell’s factory stop running well which affects the other functions too. As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs well. Eventually, they die.

The role of plaques and tangles

Two abnormal structures called plaques and tangles are prime suspects in damaging and killing nerve cells.

  • Plaques build up between nerve cells and tangles are twisted fibers that form inside dying cells. Though most people develop some plaques and tangles as they age, those with Alzheimer’s tend to develop far more. The plaques and tangles begin to form in areas important in learning and memory and then spread to other regions.

Early stage and early onset

Early-stage is the early part of Alzheimer’s disease when problems with memory, thinking and concentration may begin to appear. The term early-onset refers to Alzheimer's that occurs in a person under age 65.

Treatment

Has no current cure. But treatments for symptoms, combined with the right services and support, can make life better for people with Alzheimer’s.

Related resources



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