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Alzheimer’s: Your guide to Early detection and treatment

Author: Admin

Date: 17 October 2022

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that occurs when nerve cells in the brain die resulting in impaired memory, confusion, restlessness, personality & behavior changes, impaired judgment, impaired communication, inability to follow directions, language deterioration, impaired thought processes, and emotional apathy.

Is Alzheimer’s disease, a form of Dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (60-70% of dementia, which is close to 30-40 million people getting affected with Alzheimer’s) that is distinct by characteristic changes in the brain visible under microscopic examination during autopsy which shows fiber tangles within nerve cells and clusters of degenerating nerve endings.

The disease is typically due to the imbalance of certain neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

Why does anyone suffer from Alzheimer’s disease?

Following are some of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease – 

  1. Aging (likelihood doubles every 5 years after 65 years age)

  2. family history (people with developed dementia over generations)

  3. Genes (people affected with down’s syndrome are at high risk for Alzheimer’s)

  4. Abnormal protein deposits in the brain

  5. Problems in the immune system.

  6. Untreated depression

  7. Lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease. (smoking, obesity, diabetes, high B.P., high cholesterol etc.)

How do you detect Alzheimer’s disease?

The most common symptoms are – 

  1. Short-term memory loss

  2. Difficulty in performing familiar tasks

  3. Disorientation to time and place

  4. Poor judgment

  5. Problems with thinking, language, recognition

  6. Changes in mood or behavior

  7. Loss of initiative 

  8. Changes in personality

  9. Misplacing things

The evaluation above symptoms is followed by diagnostic tests such as mental status tests (tests of memory and other cognitive skills), neuropsychological testing, blood tests, lumbar puncture (spinal tap), urine analysis, chest x-ray, Electroencephalogram (EEG), CT scan, MRI, and genetic testing.

What are the treatments available for Alzheimer’s disease?

For symptomatic improvement and correcting the imbalance of neurotransmitters, there are medications such as – 

No.

Treatment (Medication)

Action

Possible side effects

1

Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (Donepezil, Galantamine, Rivastigmine)

Increases levels of a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine

Nausea, Vomiting, loss of appetite

2

Glutamate blockers (Memantine)

Blocks excess glutamate in the brain. Can be used with an AChE inhibitor in severe cases.

Headaches, dizziness, and constipation but are temporary.

3

Medicines to treat challenging behavior (risperidone, haloperidol, or anti-psychotic medicines)

Manage behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia such as agitation, delusions, hallucination, etc.

Extrapyramidal side effects (sudden, often jerky, involuntary motions of the head, neck, arms, body, or eyes; muscle stiffness, restlessness), dizziness, nausea, and insomnia.


Other non-medication-based therapies are as follows – 


4

Cognitive Stimulation therapy

Activities and exercises that are designed to improve memory and problem-solving skills.

5

Cognitive Rehabilitation

Working with an occupational therapist to achieve daily personal goals.


Such a degenerative disease can be prevented by reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease (quitting smoking, minimizing alcohol consumption, eating at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily, and doing 150 minutes of weekly physical exercise with a regular check on B.P., cholesterol levels, and diabetes).  Apart from reducing CV risk factors, it is suggested to stay mentally and socially active as you are aging.  Engage yourself in activities such as reading, learning new languages or anything that interests you, playing a musical instrument of your interest, participating with your peer and friendly social groups with whom you are comfortable, and engaging yourself in group activities.  It is found that such engaging simple activities can stimulate your cognition and make you stay attentive and focused while aging.  There are brain-training computer games that can also assist in improving cognition.

If your loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s, consult our expert neurologist for accurate diagnosis and treatment at Park Hospital. Our Neurosciences department is a trusted specialty by many. We specialize in treating neurological diseases. 

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