Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, which essentially stands for a loss of memory or intellectual ability that will have a large affect on an individual’s daily life. However, Alzheimer’s is much more serious than just losing memory – it is a progressively deteriorating and fatal brain disease. Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells and gets progressively worse over the years so that a patient will no longer know or remember how to perform simple daily tasks they have done their whole lives.

On the left: a brain with Alzheimer's disease, and on the right: a healthy brain

On the left: a brain with Alzheimer's disease, and on the right: a healthy brain

Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, however research into the disease has expanded immensely, with physicians and scientists desperately finding ways in which to delay the onset of prevent the developing of Alzheimer’s.

These are the ten signs to look out for that could be symptoms for Alzheimer’s:

  • Forgetting recently learned information
  • Problems in planning and/or solving problems as working with numbers becoming increasingly difficult
  • Great difficulty in completing daily tasks at home or in the office
  • Losing track of what time or day it is and being confused about being in a particular location, like not remembering how they got there
  • Difficulty reading and/or judging distances, depth perception, etc
  • Problems language that arise when speaking or writing
  • Misplacing items and not being able to retrace steps to recover them, as a healthy person would
  • Loss of skills in judgement making
  • Social withdrawal
  • Great changes in mood and personality, irritability, aggression

There are several steps to go through when diagnosing a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. If a patient presents themselves with any of the above symptoms, a doctor will first see if they fit into the risk factor categories.

There are three main risk factors involved with Alzheimer’s disease, including:

  • Age – the older you get, the more likely you are to develop it
  • Genetics – scientists have proven that genetics are involved in Alzheimer’s disease
  • Family history – if someone in your immediate or extended family had Alzheimer’s, you are more likely to get it
Alzheimer's comparison to a healthy brain

A healthy brain (left) in comparison to a patient's brain who has Alzheimer's

Afterwards, a scan of the head will take place. These can range from a computed tomography (CT scan) to a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan). The patient will then undergo several tests, such as the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) to determine how cognitively impaired they are. Family members may also be interview in the diagnostic process, in order for the doctor to gain a clear understanding how a patient’s social and cognitive behaviour has changed. Psychological tests may also be administered in order to get a deeper understanding of the mental state of the patient.

The prognosis of a patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is bleak: most are given an estimated seven years to live. It is the seventh most common cause of death in the western world.

Once a patient is diagnosed, there is a variety of manners in which they may be treated. These include pharmaceutical medications, emotional and psychological therapy and care giving. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Celebrities who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease include former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Charlton Heston. Click to find out more about Alzheimer’s disease.

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