January 21, 2013
Alzheimer’s 101: What Is It And What Can Be Done?
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
What is Alzheimer's?
According to the National Institutes of Health, Alzheimer's disease occurs when there is a loss of brain function and is a type of dementia that worsens over time. In particular, the disease can affect cognitive functions like memory and thinking. The risk of Alzheimer's increases as a person becomes older, has a close blood relative who has suffered the disease in the past, or has specific genes that have been connected to Alzheimer's in the past. Alzheimer's can also be divided into two forms, early onset Alzheimer's and late onset Alzheimer's. With early onset Alzheimer's, people start showing symptoms before they turn 60 years of age. While early onset Alzheimer's is less common than late onset, it becomes worse quickly. Late onset Alzheimer's is the most common type of Alzheimer's, with factors such as the environment or genes playing a role in the development of the disease. At this time, the cause of Alzheimer's is still unclear.
Those who are concerned about the onset of Alzheimer's can look out for various symptoms. The Mayo Clinic provides a report on the symptoms that one may notice, including forgetfulness and confusion. A person who has memory loss related to Alzheimer's may repeat statements and questions continuously, forget things like events or conversations, misplace objects routinely, or even eventually forget the titles of objects or names of family members. This memory loss may make an individual feel disoriented, causing him or her to forget time (i.e. what day it is, what year it is, where he or she is in life currently) or location (i.e. where he or she is spatially). Gradually, the disease can affect a person's ability to speak, the ability to write coherently, as well as the ability to problem solve and judge things objectively. For example, a person with Alzheimer's may have difficulty finding the right ways to express thoughts or participating in a discussion. Furthermore, individuals may have issues with concentrating and thinking about abstract issues; examples of problems that may arise include difficulties in working with numbers, balancing checkbooks, managing finances, or keeping track of what bills need to be paid. Most of all, routine activities like bathing or dressing will seem confusing and become more of a struggle.
Besides these various symptoms, brain changes related to Alzheimer's can affect a person's personality and behavior. Those with Alzheimer's could experience emotions like anxiety, depression, irritability or aggressiveness, moodiness, stubbornness, and difficulty sleeping.
What is the treatment for Alzheimer's?
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. However, people with the illness can be treated by slowing the development of Alzheimer's, managing symptoms, or taking advantage of medication. Those who are interested in taking medications should first speak with a doctor or nurse to understand the potential side effects related to medication, the risks the medications pose, as well as the best time to take the medication.
What resources are available for Alzheimer's patients?
There are a number of support groups for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's as well as caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's. For example, the Alzheimer's Association provides care and support for those dealing with Alzheimer's with the help of professional staff members, online resources, and the opportunity to participate in clinical trials.