Alzheimer’s disease: Description
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disorder which affects person’s cognition and behavior (dementia). This illness is caused by the brain degeneration and progresses for decades as the brain structures are gradually affected (sustain atrophy). Of note, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and typically manifests in adults older than 65 years.
Our genetic test is helpful to identify whether a person is genetically predisposed to develop Alzheimer’s disease at some point and whether further investigations to exclude the disorder are needed.
Alzheimer’s disease develops over time, the symptoms worsen gradually. In some individuals the process lasts longer, whereas in the others it may develop rapidly. Additionally, the course of the disease varies from person to person. They may experience different symptoms of different severity, albeit typically this illness goes through similar stages. However, sometimes it is pretty hard to distinguish the stages as symptoms may progress independently of each other.
Preclinical disease remains asymptomatic for many years and even decades, although the brain, namely, its specific regions are already injured. The computer tomography/magnetic resonance tomography may reveal deposits of a protein amyloid beta in the brain tissues.
In mild Alzheimer’s disease which lasts from 2 to 4 years a person remains completely independent, can serve him/herself and engage in social activities. However, a person starts to experience forgetfulness and memory lapses – occasionally it may be hard to recall a familiar word, name some objects, etc. Sometimes a person can’t recognize familiar places anymore, feels confused about certain places and may face difficulties with some domestic and tasks and while dealing with money. The symptoms are very mild and may be even considered a usual forgetfulness. In some cases, mood swings, depression, anxiety and personality changes also burden person’s life and the life of his/her family.
Moderate Alzheimer’s disease usually lasts from 2 to 10 years (on average 7 years). The disease progresses gradually and symptoms worsen over time. Memory loss becomes apparent, a person forgets recent events, whereas remembers the things which took place many years ago. He/she may have problems recognizing relatives and friends, cannot make plans and make decisions. All these problems lead to confusion and depression. It is hard to concentrate, attention deficit and inability or impaired learning are also observed. Other symptoms like hallucinations and delusions may develop. Repetitive movements and muscle twitching may appear and worsen person’s ability to live independently. At some point a person faces problems with reading, writing and calculating.
Sometimes individuals with Stages of Alzheimer’s disease wander and may get lost as they cannot find the way back home, forget address, etc. The disease impairs person’s ability to control impulses, therefore, he/she may behave inappropriately, swear and use vulgar words.
Severe disease on average lasts from 1 to 3 years and a person dies of disease complications such as severe infections and aspiration pneumonia.
In the late stage of the disease person is completely unable to live independently, needs assistance in daily routine, hygiene and requires constant care, and cannot recognize family members and close friends. The everyday activity is reduced, affected person usually stays in bed most of the time and are extremely sleepy the whole day.
As long as a person is not very active and weak, doesn’t eat enough due to swallowing difficulties, he/she losses weight and muscle weight. Respectively, an ill individual becomes even more weak and has no power to walk, sit and talk. Bowel and bladder control is impaired.
Early diagnosis is crucial for the treatment effectiveness and prognosis. Despite the fact that in general the disease cannot be cured, the sooner treatment is initiated, the better symptoms control can be obtained and memory loss can be reduced. Medications used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s are usually much more effective when administered early in the course of the disease. There is also a wide range of non-drug interventions which slow the disease progression and delay memory loss.
Another benefit of early diagnosis is the possibility for a person to plan his/her life, make some financial decisions, etc. Early diagnosis is associated with a better understanding of the disease by an affected person and his/her family, providing better support and care.
Alternatively, there are other possible treatable causes of Alzheimer’s disease-like disease. It is necessary to distinguish the real Alzheimer’s disease from these completely reversible disorders to start the appropriate treatment.
Genetic testing helps to identify the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and may also provide early diagnosis of the disease when the symptoms are not so obvious.