At times, anyone can misplace an item, forget someone’s name or even show an occasional flash of poor judgment. Nevertheless, when these things begin to happen more frequently, something more serious may be going on. Although there is likely a perfectly good explanation, it could also be time to consider the possibility of Alzheimer’s.
Some of the early warning signs include:
- Inability to problem-solve.
- Visual complaints.
- Personality changes.
- Difficulty judging distance and time.
- A tendency to wander or get lost.
- Trouble finding or using the right words.
- Avoidance of people and social events.
- Depression and mood swings.
These are, of course, also symptoms of dementia in general, a condition for which there can be any number of causes. In 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases, however, Alzheimer’s is the sole culprit.
What Causes Alzheimer’s?
Researchers have long believed that these plaques and tangles alone were the sole cause of Alzheimer’s. Today, however, some see them as more of a hallmark than a trigger, pointing the finger instead at such potential culprits as neural inflammation, DNA damage, excessive glutamate excitement in addition. Many modern scientists blame the condition on a combination of environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors rather than on one alone.
The Healthy Brain Versus the Alzheimer’s Brain
A healthy brain is larger in size than an Alzheimer’s brain. That’s because the disease causes the cortex to shrivel. The trouble can be particularly severe in the hippocampus region where it adversely impacts memory formation.
As the brain’s cells die, its ventricles increase in size, creating a Swiss-cheese effect. Although scientists are unsure of what causes plaques and tangles to form in the Alzheimer brain, all signs point to their existence as the cause of tissue loss and cell death.
The Alzheimer’s Progression
The speed with which Alzheimer’s progresses will vary from one person to another. Its earliest changes can occur as many as 20 years before the patient has received an actual diagnosis. This first stage commonly involves the brain areas involved in learning, memory, foresight and cognition.
The second stage of Alzheimer’s ranges from mild to moderate and can last anywhere from two to 10 years. This is when problems first seen in the earlier stages will worsen and additional symptoms will join the mix. Confusion, language struggles, personality changes and money-handling difficulty may interfere with work routines and social interactions. This is the point at which most people receive their diagnosis.
The final stage equates to severe Alzheimer’s, and its length can range from one year to five or more. At this stage, most of the cortex has diminished greatly, and as the brain continues to shrink, individuals may cease to recognize family members and lose the ability to communicate or care for themselves.
Getting an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
In testing for Alzheimer’s, a physician will review your medical history and evaluate your memory, use of language and ability to solve problems or engage in abstract thinking. He or she may also interview friends and family members to learn of any obvious changes in your behavior. Laboratory tests may rule out vitamin deficiencies or specific diseases as a cause while brain imaging tests can illustrate the extent of deterioration.
The Alzheimer’s Prognosis
Although there is no current cure for Alzheimer’s, an early diagnosis can afford several treatment options. These include medications to help with confusion and slow memory loss along with specific treatments to improve sleep patterns and help with behavioral changes. As science continues to research treatment and prevention options for Alzheimer’s, an understanding of the situation will be of benefit in helping both patient and family deal with the condition in the present while making appropriate plans for the days and years to come. We are conducting research trials for Alzheimer’s.
For more information please call 702-405-7100 today.