Alzheimer's disease is a common condition that involves a loss of intellectual and social abilities and affects over 4 million people in the US. Most people who develop Alzheimer's are over the age of 65 and the risk for developing the disease continues to increase with age. Alzheimer's is the leading cause of dementia and can be a troubling condition for both patients and their loved ones.
Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disease that causes the ability of memory and other brain functions to slowly decrease until a person is no longer capable of remembering, reasoning or learning. Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include:
Since the disease progresses slowly, symptoms are often gradual and may not even be noticed at first.
The cause of Alzheimer's is not quite understood, but it is known that the disease damages and kills brain cells. The brains of those who died after having the disease tend to show abnormal clumps of brain cells known as plaques and tangles. Alzheimer's tends to affect older people and is more common in women than men.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's, but several treatments are available to help manage symptoms and slow the progress of the disease. Medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors and partial glutamate antagonists help protect healthy brain cells and may be used separately or together. Research is always being conducted to help develop new treatment options for Alzheimer's patients.
It is important for people with Alzheimer's to continue enjoying daily activities as best as they can. Despite impaired abilities to remember or reason, these people can still love and spend time with others. A sturdy support system can help make life with Alzheimer's full and enjoyable.
Dementia is a series of age-related symptoms that involves a loss of mental skills and deteriorating brain function. Dementia literally translates to "deprived of mind" and is most often caused by Alzheimer's disease. Symptoms of dementia occur when nerve cells die or lose communication and slowly lose their ability to function.
The symptoms of dementia develop gradually and may not even by noticed by the patient until family and friends point it out. Some of the most common symptoms include:
Dementia and its related conditions cannot be cured, but many cases can be managed though medication and cognitive training to improve functioning in everyday life. It is important to practice healthy habits such as exercising regularly and maintaining low blood pressure and low cholesterol in order to help prevent dementia from worsening.
Memory loss is an acute amount of forgetfulness or incapacity to recollect past events. It can be brought on suddenly, possibly due to a trauma, or gradually over time. Memory loss can be short-term (transient) or permanent, and it may involve a lack of recall of recent information, information from long ago or both. Aging may bring about some trouble in the retention of newly learned facts, but it does not cause a substantial level of memory loss, or amnesia, on its own.
There are numerous reasons for memory loss, including dementia, stroke, alcoholism, depression, trauma, medications, tumors, Parkinson's disease and more. Some loss of memory is the result of treatable conditions, some is not. Depending upon the cause of the memory loss, it may affect knowledge of words and thoughts only or it may also impact motor memory, rendering the body unable to perform certain actions.
For milder cases of memory loss, cognitive therapy methods can be useful. A speech and language therapist may work with the patient on memory exercises that can lead to improvements in recall over time.