Alzheimer’s disease: Symptoms, Causes, Complications and Management
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a mental condition of forgetfulness that is progressive and deteriorates with time. In this disease, the brain’s neuron (nerve cell that carries information) stops working, loses connectivity with other neurons, and eventually dies. Alzheimer’s disease affects the part of the brain responsible for our memory and thinking.
Facts of Alzheimer’s disease
- The disease begins with memory loss, progresses with messy conversations, and finally renders the patient incapable of performing normal daily activities.
- It primarily affects older adults above 65 years.
- The disease is incurable, but treatment strategies can slow the disease’s progression.
What are the Symptoms ?
Based on the severity of the symptoms, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may experience mild, moderate or severe characteristics of the disease.
Mild Alzheimer’s disease symptoms
- The slow decline in memory and losing things very often
- Repetitive asking of the same questions
- Taking much longer than usual to do the most straightforward task.
- Difficulty in finding the correct words to express one’s thoughts
- Difficulty in organizing plans
- Difficulty making judgements
- Getting lost in familiar places
Moderate Alzheimer’s disease symptoms
- More decline in memory leads to forgetting one’s telephone numbers and even necessary appointments.
- Difficulty remembering the days of the week and even the seasons of the year
- Remembering things only for a short time
- Difficulty in doing simple calculations
- Continual Repeating of events which is in mind
- Need assistance performing normal daily activities such as dressing, combing, bathing, and using the toilet
- Behavioral changes with lack of emotions, a disturbed mind, anxiety, and depression
- Sleep difficulties
- Difficulty in recognizing people
- Loss of bowel and urinary control
- Developing illogical doubts about family and caretakers
Severe Alzheimer’s disease symptoms
- Complete memory loss
- Inability to communicate actively and speech becomes limited to only a few words.
- Needs help in usual everyday activities such as eating, sitting and walking
- Becomes unconscious of their surrounding environment
- Becomes susceptible to infections such as pneumonia.
- Extreme tiredness
What causes Alzheimer’s ?
- The probable cause is the unusual protein (viz; tau and amyloid) build up in the brain leading to brain cell death.
- The human brain is composed of nerve cells which work together to accomplish functions like memorizing, thinking, planning, and learning .
- In the brain, the amyloid proteins form large masses known as plaques outside the brain cells, and the tau proteins form twisted, coiled fibers within the brain cells. The plaques prevent essential communication between the nerve cells for normal brain functions, while the tau proteins block energy and food, thereby killing the brain cell.
However, the causes of the brain’s amyloid and tau protein buildup in the brain are still unclear.
Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease
- Family history of Alzheimer’s disease as it runs in families generation after generation.
- Old age (65 years or more)
- Specific genes linked to Alzheimer’s disease, such as Apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene
- Down’s syndrome ( disorder due to extra chromosome number 21)
- Earlier brain injury
- High blood pressure
- Increased weight
- High cholesterol
- Smoking habits
- Poor sleep
- Lack of physical exercise
- Extensive exposure to glues and paints
Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s
- The patient’s medical history is evaluated by inquiring about the patient’s general health, medicines, performance on ongoing everyday activities, mood changes and family history.
- Physical examination (such as blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature)
- Mental examination (to assess short and long-term memory)
- Blood test (to check for genes)
- Urine test (to look for urinary formic acid levels)
- Neurological examination (to rule out stroke or other possible infection) It checks for any abnormality in speech and muscle reflexes.
Neurological Imaging tests such as:
CT (Computed tomography) scan
- Uses X-ray and computer to identify any abnormality in the brain tissue
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- It is an imaging technique that uses magnetic waves to get a detailed picture of the brain.
- Identify structural issues and bleeding in the brain area
PET (Positron emission tomography)
- It is an imaging technique that uses radioactive substances, a computer and a camera.
- Can identify the metabolic (chemical and physical processes) functioning of the brain tissues
Management of Alzheimer’s
To date, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are medications to manage the condition and improve the patient’s quality of life.
Drugs for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease
- Help decrease the protein plaques formation in the brain
- Maintains a high level of acetylcholine in the brain and
- Help nerve cells in sending and receiving signals
Drugs for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease
Cholinesterase inhibitor drugs (viz; Rivastigmine, Galantamine, Donepezil)
- Prevents acetylcholine breakdown
- Stimulates more acetylcholine production in the brain
- Help nerve cells in sending and receiving signals
- Obstructs the excess glutamate accumulation
- Decreases symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease
- Combination of donepezil and memantine
Anti-depression medicines (such as tranquilizers) to treat
- Convulsions, and
- Difficult sleeping
Other Treatments for Alzheimer’s disease
- Keeping memory reminders and written notes
- Making daily activities easier
- Taking enough rest during the day
- Creating soothing atmosphere
- Adopting relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation
- Maintaining a balanced diet
- Physical therapy to help the patient remain active
- Counseling of the patients (for providing mental support)
- Counselors (mental experts) offer counseling sessions to patients by listening to their difficulties and giving appropriate solutions
- Appointing a nurse or a caregiver for patient’s adequate support.
- Timely monitoring of medicines intake
- Hospital care at the patient’s end of life for required comfort and dignified death
Natural remedies for Alzheimer’s disease
Omega 3 fatty acids
Using supplements (fish oils) or omega 3 fatty acids rich foods such as
- It is a spice obtained from the bark of cinnamon trees
- Has antioxidant properties
- It improves blood flow to the brain
- Improve nerve cell communication and
- Improve the brain function
- It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
- Help fight against infection and relieve pain
- It is a herb having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
- Prevent beta-amyloid plaques formation in the brain
- Relieves stress, fatigue and pain
- It is a herb having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
- It boosts the immune system to fight infections
- It improves the mental ability
- Dehydration and undernourishment due to giving up drinking and eating
- Loss of control of urination and bowel movements
- The feeling of restlessness all the time
- Anxiety and hostile behaviour, and even tend to hurt others
- Remaining stressed and having a sense of hopelessness
- Loss of body balance and frequent falling
- Infections such as urinary infection, pneumonia and flu
- Sleeping problem
- Extreme tiredness
- Memory loss and confusion can lead to one’s roaming from the home to unknown places.
There are no proven ways to prevent Alzheimer’s, but certain practices may delay the disease’s progression. They are as follows
- Exercising regularly
- Managing high blood pressure
- Managing high blood sugar (diabetes)
- Eating a well-planned, nutritious, balanced diet that includes fish, vegetables and fruits ,whole grains ,olive oil ,blueberries, strawberries, cranberries
- Foods containing vitamin B6 and B12, such as, chicken, Salmon, chickpeas, red meat, and eggs
- Foods containing folates are-asparagus, banana, papaya, tomato, and spinach
- Foods containing vitamin D, like, oily fish(mackerel, sardines),egg yolks, liver
- Keeping oneself mentally active by listening to music, playing mental games ( solving puzzles), watching television, and reading books and newspapers
- Socializing with people by attending parties and meeting friends and families frequently
- Engaging in activities such as running, swimming, and walking
- Complete cessation of smoking