Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia that exists on the planet. It was named after the neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in the early 20th century. Alzheimer's disease generally affects those 65 years of age or older. However, there is an early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Symptoms

There are 4 stages of the disease with symptoms occurring in each one of them. In the first stage, or the pre-dementia stage, the symptoms include: mild cognitive impairment, depression, irritability, apathy, semantic memory impairment, problems with abstract thinking, planning, flexibility, attentiveness and executive functions.

In the second stage, or the early stage, symptoms include: decreased word fluency, shrinking vocabulary, further learning and memory loss, difficulty with language, perception and executive functions.

Generally, new facts and memories are the most impacted.

In the third stage, or the moderate stage, the symptoms include: lack of independence, inability to recall vocabulary, worsened reading and writing skills, inability to paraphrase, sundowning, and delusional symptoms.

In the final stage, or the advanced stage, the symptoms include: reduced speech (down to phrases or one word responses), aggressiveness, exhaustion, apathy, the deterioration of the muscles. This will all lead to the person's inability to speak at all and they will be bed ridden eventually and die.

Causes

The cause of Alzheimer's disease is unknown. There is evidence that a very small percentage of sufferers get it genetically as there have been differences in their genetic make up. There are many theories on what it is that causes Alzheimer's disease. One of the oldest theories is that it is a deficiency in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Another theory suggests that beta-amyloid deposits are what are causing Parkinson's disease. There is also another theory that Parkinson's is caused by a herpes virus.

Treatments

The most popular treatment for Alzheimer's Disease, in its early stage, are drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors. They help with memory and thinking. Some of the drug names are: galantamine, donepezil hydrochloride, and rivastigimine. These drugs do not work with everyone and can cause some side effects but professionals recommend that if you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's that you give it a try as it will give you more time before the disease fully engulfs you. Another drug used for Alzheimer's patients is called memantine. It can be taken with cholinesterase inhibitors or by itself. It treats the symptoms of memory loss and confusion.

Man and woman sitting on a bench at the beach

Depression is a major symptom that comes along with Alzheimer's Disease. It affects up to half of the people who will contract the disease. Drugs that would normally treat depression (i.e. anti-depressants) would be used to try and cure this particular symptom.

Prognosis

The life expectancy of someone who is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease is 7 years. There have been cases where individuals have lived up to twice as long. The disease itself is the cause of death in the sufferer in 7 out of 10 of the cases, while the other causes of death are dehydration, pneumonia and cancer.