WHAT IS ALTZHEIMERS DISEASE (AD)
AD is a progressive illness that causes cell changes in the parts of the brain that deal with memory, language, perception.
Initial symptoms of AD include difficulty remembering, misplacing objects and a lack of concentration.
Emotional symptoms such as moodiness, restlessness, or depression are also common.
Behavioural disturbances such as agitation and aggression can also become increasingly noticible, unlike the forgetfulness typical of old age.
As the disease progresses, the diagnosed person and his/her carer will find handling of daily living and activities more difficult.
How common is AD
Dementia is a mental disorder that affects memory thought processes and behaviour. AD is the most common type of dementia. The actual cause of AD has not yet been found. Current knowledge indicates that a progressive loss of brain cells is related to the formation of abnormal plaques of insoluble protein fragments in and around the cells. Another characteristic sign of AD is the presence of tangles within the brain cells, formed by abnormal twists of tau, a virtual protein in healthy cells. Although these formations may be harmless in themselves they may activate some kind of defence mechanism in the body that causes cell death in the affected areas. In fact it is very likely that it is not carried by any single factor but by a number of factors that affect each person differently. Dimentia may be associated with Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease or certain infectious diseases. Damage to the brain from physical trauma, metabolic disorders or toxins may also influence development of the disease.
How does it affect the brain: Alzheimer's disease cause cell damage in the brain cells with potential death of the affected cells. The damage occurs in parts of the brain that controls memory, thought and language. It is a progressive disease which means that as more brain cells become affected over time, more symptoms will appear.
Who is affected: Getting older appears to be the most decisive courts of AD, the other factors such as gender and genes may also increase the risk of developing the disease. In the majority of cases 95% of the time the disease develops and people age 65 and older which means that as people live longer and longer the number of people with the disease will increase.
A small percentage of people develop the disease at an earlier age between 35 and 60 years of age. With this early onset AD, there is thought to be a link with genetics, as cases tend to cluster within certain families. The disease occurs across ethnic groups, social class and gender although it is slightly more common women. During the diagnosis and afterwards those involved will need both physical and emotional support from relatives and friends.
Receiving the diagnosis can come as something of a relief. Gaining a more detailed understanding of what was going on and enable the family to cope with the different challenges in such in a more structured way.
What changes will take place.
Alzheimer disease affect people in different ways and different stages. The first things that are usually noticed are memory loss and forgetfulness. As time goes on other abilities may be affected with very which vary from person to person.
From a clinical point of view the symptoms of AD can be divided into three main categories Cognitive: symptoms
that affect the ability to understand memory and language. Behavioral: symptoms that affect mood and behaviour Functional: symptoms that affect the ability to perform daily activities. Changes in in the cognitive:
Often the first signs of AD, cognitive symptoms are those that affect non-emotional mental processes such as reasoning memory and judgement. In the early stages the person with a disease may be aware of a decline in their cognitive abilities, which can lead to depression and/or anxiety.
Cognitive symptoms include forgetfulness e.g. losing keys or wallet, forgetting food cooking in the oven.
Indecisiveness e.g. difficulties with rationalising and coming to a conclusion.
Disorientation e.g. getting lost in familiar places Language difficulties e.g. word finding issues, vague speech
Lack of recognition e.g. reduced ability to recognise familiar objects or even family members.
The symptoms of Alzheimer's will affect both a person diagnosed with AD and the people around them by posing challenges to everyday life. That's why it's important to seek and adhere to specialist treatment as soon as possible and start to create ways of making life easier. The value of any improvement in symptoms will have a positive effect on quality of life for all concerned.
Changes in ability to function:
AD will also cause difficulties in the way the person with a disease functions in terms of performing basic daily activities. Understanding tasks such as personal grooming and household chores will therefore become increasingly demanding for the individual with AD, as a result there will be an increasing need for care. Functional symptoms include:
Neglect of of personal hygiene, e.g. not bathing or brushing teeth Difficulty grooming and getting dressed e.g. not brushing hair or being unable to button clothing.
Difficulty handling money, shopping or doing hobbies e.g. inability to give correct change in shops Loss of control of posture and walking e.g. stooped stance, impaired walking.
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