Repetition of words
Confusion with time or place
Drastic changes in mood and personality
Decreased or poor judgment
Withdrawal from social activities
Forget conversations, appointments or events, and not remember them later
Forget the names of family members and everyday objects
Difficulty in performing familiar tasks
Difficulty in reading and vision
Difficulty in speaking or writing right words to identify objects
Difficulty in solving simple problems
Age: Aging is the main risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease. About 5% of people above 65 years old have Alzheimer’s disease and this percentage increases by about 5% with each increment of 5 years. Although early or young onset Alzheimer's disease can affect people from around the age of 40.
Family history: Family history or genes affect risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. However people who develop Alzheimer’s due to a genetic reasons are diagnosed at a age before 60 and they represent a very small portion of all cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
Down’s syndrome: Down's syndrome has a much higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The genetic fault that causes Down's syndrome also causes a build-up of amyloid plaques. This lead to Alzheimer's disease in most people with Down's syndrome.
Education level: Having a high level of education and cognitively demanding job, the brain developes greater cognitive reserve which allows the brain to better cope with the early impacts of Alzheimer’s disease. So a low level of education in early life affects cognitive reserve and is one of the most significant risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
Head injury: Head injuries are most commonly caused by accidents, some type of sports and falls. People who have had a severe head injury may be at higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Cardiovascular risk factors: Cardiovascular risk factors are the most important ones and are linked to the health of our heart and blood vessels. Having high blood pressure (hypertension) or a high cholesterol level or uncontrolled diabetes or obesity increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Inactive lifestyle and lack of exercises: Exercising regularly is associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Physical activity is good for the heart and muscles and most probably helps the mind and the brain.
Smoking and alcohol: People who smoke and take alcohol are at a 45% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s as compared to non-smokers.
Alzheimer’s disease has many side effects and complications that can create problems for the patient and their caregivers. Apart from physiological and behavioural changes, there are a number of medical complications that are part of Alzheimer’s disease. It is important for all caregivers to be aware of these conditions to minimize problems.
Infections: People with this disease tend to lose bladder control and thus a urinary catheter might become necessary. Since they are at high risk for infections they might develop Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
Injuries: People who have Alzheimer’s disease may fall which can cause serious injuries. Many people with the disease have to use a stick or walker but they may not remember that they need to use them. That is how many serious falls can happen.
Insomnia: This is a common complication that arises due to this disease. With degeneration of thought-processes as well as physical capabilities, there could be major changes in sleeping habits. Sufferers might either over-sleep or suffer from insomnia for a prolonged period of time.
Depression: Depression due to Alzheimer’s disease has been recognized as a medical complication that accompanies this condition. Most sufferers suffer from severe depression during the initial phase of the disease, as they realize that they are losing the physical and mental capabilities. Recognizing depression in a sufferer of Alzheimer’s disease is rather difficult since the symptoms can be somewhat obscured by the symptoms of the disease itself.
There is no single diagnostic test to determine whether a person has Alzheimer’s disease or not. However, a series of clinical and physiological examination mentioned below are carried out to diagnose this condition.
A complete medical and psychiatric history
A neurological exam
A mental status exam
Brain imaging tests like MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or CT (Computerized Tomography) scan
Disease processes imaging test performed with Positron Emission Tomography (PET) like Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET, Amyloid PET imaging and Tau PET imaging
Interviews with friends and family
There is no treatment that cures Alzheimer's disease or alters the disease process in the brain. In advanced stages of the disease, complications from severe loss of brain function such as dehydration, malnutrition or infection result in death.
Cognitive stimulation therapy (CST): Taking part in group activities and exercises designed to improve memory and problem solving skills.
Reminiscence therapy: Discussion of past experiences to jog a patient’s memory. It usually involves photos, favourite possessions or music.
Simulated presence therapy: Playing a recorded voices of the closest relatives to reduce challenging behaviour.
Validation theory: This is based on accepting the reality about dementia and moving past it to get better.
Cognitive rehabilitation: This technique involves working with a trained professional, such as an occupational therapist, and a relative or friend to achieve a personal goal, such as learning to use a mobile phone or other everyday tasks. Cognitive rehabilitation works by getting you to use the parts of your brain that are working to help the parts that are not.
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