Mind Matters

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is an age-related, irreversible brain disease. It develops over a period of time. Alzheimer’s is one of the diseases which are classified as dementias. Dementias are characterised by loss of memory and declining cognitive abilities. People, aged 65 and above are more susceptible to dementias.

Major Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

The following are the major symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease:

  • Memory loss and confusion( Initially mistaken for normal age related deficiency)
  • Behavior and personality changes
  • Decline in cognitive abilities such as decision-making and language skills
  • Inability to recognise family and friends
  • Severe loss of mental function

Damage to the Brain due to Alzheimer’s Disease

Three main damages that occur to the brain due to Alzheimer’s disease include the following:

Neuronal plaques: A mix of fragments of beta amyloid protein and other proteins along with nerve cells.

Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs): Clumps are formed due to collection of abnormal tau protein in the neuron. These clumps lead to the death of nerve cells.

Loss of connections between neurons responsible for memory and learning: The connections between the nerve cells are lost. When connections are lost the nerve cells can not survive. This leads to death and atrophy ( deterioration) of the brain cells.

Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four drugs for using, as part of medication for Alzheimer’s disease.

The following three drugs are used for treating the mild Alzheimer’s disease:

Razadyne® (galantamine, formerly known as Reminyl® and now available as a generic drug)

Exelon® (rivastigmine)

Aricept® (donepezil)

Drug Memantine (Namenda) is used to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.

The above drugs are only for helping the individual in managing the problems that result due to the disease. They do not cure the disease. They only help the patient to cope up with the demands of day to day life such as memory, thinking and speaking. They may also reduce behavioural and personality related deficiencies. Even this sort of support is guaranteed for few years at the most.

Prognosis for Alzheimer’s Disease

The prognosis for Alzheimer’s disease is very poor. It occurs due to a combination of factors such a genetic, environmental and even lifestyle. Some times Alzheimer’s disease occurs in younger individuals who are in their 30s, 40S & 50s. This early onset of Alzheimer’s disease is due to mutations that occur in any of the three genes that are till now known to be responsible for causing Alzheimer’s disease.

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