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Alzheimer's & Dementia
A progressive condition in which nerve cells in the brain degenerate and the brain shrinks.
Alzheimer's disease Is the most common cause of dementia. Onset is uncommon before the age of 60.
In most cases, Alzheimer's disease occurs without an identifiable cause. However, early onset Alzheimer's disease in which symptoms develop before age 60 may rarely be inherited as a dominant disorder, and late onset Alzheimer's disease is sometimes associated with various genes, including three that are responsible for the production of the blood protein apolipoprotein E. These genes also result in the deposition of a protein called beta amyloid in the brain. Other chemical abnormalities may include deficiency of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
The features of Alzheimer's disease vary, but there are three broad stages.
- At first, the person becomes increasingly forgetful, and problems with memory may cause anxiety and depression.
- In the second stage, loss of memory, particularly for recent events, gradually becomes more severe, and there may be disorientation as to time or place. The person's concentration and numerical ability decline, and there is noticeable dysphasia (inability to find the right word). Anxiety increases, mood changes are unpredictable, and personality changes may occur.
- Finally, confusion becomes profound. There may be symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions. Signs of nervous system disease, such as abnormal reflexes and faecal or urinary incontinence, begin to develop.
Alzheimer's disease is usually diagnosed from the symptoms, but tests including blood tests and CT scanning or MRI of the brain may be needed to exclude treatable causes of dementia.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease The most important aspect of treatment is the provision of suitable nursing and social care for sufferers and support for their relatives Tranquillizer drugs can often improve difficult behaviour and help with sleep Treatment with drugs such as donepezil, rivastigmine and memantine may slow the progress of the disease for a time, but side effects such as nausea and dizziness may occur.
A condition characterized by a deterioration in brain function.
Dementia is almost always due to Alzheimer's disease or to cerebrovascular disease, including strokes Cerebrovascular disease is often due to narrowed or blocked arteries in the brain. Recurrent loss of blood supply to the brain usually results in deterioration that occurs gradually but in stages. A small proportion of cases of dementia in people younger than 65 have a underlying treatable cause such as head injury, brain tumour, encephalitis, or alcohol dependence.
The main symptoms of dementia are:
- Sudden outbursts or embarrassing behaviour may be the first signs of the condition.
- progressive memory loss
- Unpleasant personality traits may be magnified, families may have to endure accusations, unreasonable demands, or even assault.
- Paranoia, depressions and delusions may occur as the disease worsens. Irritability or anxiety gives way to indifference towards all feelings.
- Personal habits deteriorate, and speech becomes incoherent. Affected people may eventually need total nursing care
Management of the most common Alzheimer-type illness is based on the treatment of symptoms. Sedative drugs may be given for restlessness or paranoia. Drugs for dementia, for example Nootropil can slow mental decline in some people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, the drug memantine may be used to treat people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease