What is Alzheimer's? Alzheimer's symptoms and treatment

9 Feb 2024

The medical condition that develops in the form of memory loss, dementia and general decrease in cognitive functions due to the death of brain cells over time is called Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's, a neurological disease, is also the most common type of dementia. Beta amyloid plaques are seen in the brain of people with the disease. The disease, which manifests itself only with simple forgetfulness in the initial phase, can progress over time to the point where the patient forgets recent events and cannot recognize family members and close circle. In more advanced stages of the disease, patients have difficulty meeting their basic needs and become in need of care.

What is Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's is a common type of dementia and a progressive neurological disease that causes the destruction of brain cells. In this disease, which causes a decrease in thinking, memory and behavioral functions, symptoms appear gradually with age. It may take years for the disease to reach advanced stages. Since it is a progressive disease, early symptoms of Alzheimer's are generally seen as forgetting recent events, but within a few years, individuals may have difficulty performing their daily activities on their own. Social skills, behavior, and the ability to think logically are also negatively affected over time. Advanced-stage Alzheimer's patients often lose the ability to have a conversation with a person and begin to have difficulty responding to questions asked of them and events occurring around them. Although the disease mostly affects individuals aged 65 and over, it cannot be described as a disease of old age as younger onset cases are also frequently encountered.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's patients usually apply to clinics with complaints of decreased performance in cognitive and behavioral areas. Although the symptoms in the initial stage of the disease are milder, the findings are more pronounced in patients in the advanced stage. The symptoms of the onset of Alzheimer's are generally minor memory problems, but also forgetting recent conversations and events; It includes symptoms such as the inability to remember the names of people, objects, and places. The most common Alzheimer's symptoms as the disease progresses are:

  • confusion
  • Getting lost in places one knows well
  • Difficulty in adapting to one's environment
  • Development of personality disorders such as aggression, making unusual demands on family and friends, and suspicion of the environment
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Low motivation and self-esteem
  • People have difficulty performing daily activities without assistance
  • Denial of events that the person cannot remember
  • Anxiety and depression

The above symptoms are generally common when the disease is first diagnosed. As the disease progresses, these symptoms increase in severity and reach much more advanced levels, such as the patient not being able to recognize family members, completely forgetting his recent past, and having difficulty even recognizing himself. In this case, patients often need a caregiver to continue their daily lives.

What are the causes of Alzheimer's?

Although Alzheimer's is a disease that has been the subject of scientific research for many years, the cause of the development of the disease has not yet been precisely determined. In addition, possible causes that are considered as risk factors in the emergence of the disease, in other words, that may play a role in the development of the disease, are as follows:

  • advanced age
  • Having a family history of Alzheimer's
  • having Down syndrome
  • Past head injuries
  • Sleep pattern disorders
  • insufficient physical activity
  • Smoking or being constantly exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Having poorly controlled type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Inadequate, unbalanced and unhealthy nutrition

When studies investigating the incidence of Alzheimer's disease in two different genders are examined, it is seen that the incidence of Alzheimer's disease in female gender is slightly higher than in male gender. However, it is considered possible that this situation may be related to the higher average life expectancy in women. Apart from the above reasons, which are considered as risk factors in the development of the disease, beta amyloid plaques are found around the dead brain cells in brain tissue examinations performed on Alzheimer's patients. Studies aimed at investigating the factors that may cause these formations and the death of brain cells in patients constitute a ray of hope for determining the exact cause of the disease in the future.

How is Alzheimer's diagnosed?

There is no differential diagnostic test that can provide clear information about the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, many medical diagnostic tests are evaluated together in diagnosing the disease. Patients who apply to health institutions with symptoms related to the disease are directed to neurology clinics. First of all, a detailed history of the patient is taken by neurologists. At this stage, it may be necessary to ask some questions to the patient, as well as his family or close circle. After taking the medical history, various scans are performed on patients measuring neurological functions, balance, sensation, behavior, memory and reflexes. Applications such as blood tests, ultrasonography , computerized tomography (CT) , magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and personality screening tests to investigate depression can also be applied to support the diagnosis and rule out the possibility of similar diseases . Since Alzheimer's disease can show similar symptoms to some genetic diseases, gene screening may also be necessary to investigate these diseases. In addition, although gene screening can be applied to investigate the gene called APOE-e4, which is claimed to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease, this method is not a validated screening method. If findings that raise suspicion for Alzheimer's disease are obtained as a result of all these diagnostic tests, a definitive diagnosis of the disease can be made by the physician after tests to evaluate cognitive functions, also known as Alzheimer's test, are performed.

How is Alzheimer's treated?

People who experience the above symptoms indicating Alzheimer's disease should consult a healthcare provider without delay. In patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease as a result of evaluations made by the physician, the treatment process is planned individually, taking into account the patient's age, the advanced level of the disease and other accompanying diseases. There is no known definitive treatment for Alzheimer's disease. However, with some practices, it is possible to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of the disease in the patient and slow down the progression of the disease. Necessary arrangements should be made in the home environment of Alzheimer's patients, and measures should be taken to prevent forgetfulness and facilitate remembering, especially for patients who have to live alone. These can be notes or eye-catching signs to be hung in certain parts of the house. Psychiatric therapies, such as cognitive stimulation therapies, which can be applied individually or collectively, can contribute to strengthening memory, problem solving and preserving language skills. The physician may recommend the use of certain medications in order to reduce the symptoms of the disease and increase the quality of life. Cholinesterase inhibitors such as Donepezil, Rivastigmine, Takmin and drugs such as Memantine are the most commonly used drug types for this purpose. These drugs are not a direct treatment tool for the disease, but can be considered as a part of symptomatic treatment.

Since the exact cause of the disease is unknown in individuals who have a family history of Alzheimer's but have not yet received a diagnosis of the disease, measures can only be taken to eliminate risk factors. These are precautions such as avoiding smoking, adopting an active lifestyle and eating healthy. In addition, these individuals should be made aware of Alzheimer's disease and the symptoms that indicate the disease. If you observe symptoms of Alzheimer's such as memory problems in yourself or a relative, you should immediately contact a healthcare institution and have the examination and necessary diagnostic tests performed to investigate the disease. If the disease is diagnosed, you can significantly slow down the progression of the disease by starting the treatment process as soon as possible.





Write & Read to Earn with BULB

Learn More

Enjoy this blog? Subscribe to MUHAMMED NECİM


No comments yet.
Most relevant comments are displayed, so some may have been filtered out.