Alzheimer's disease (AD), also referred to simply as Alzheimer's, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that causes severe damage to the brain and neurons. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events (short-term memory loss).
Comparison of a normal aged brain (left) and the brain of a person with Alzheimer's (right). Characteristics that separate the two are pointed out.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
As the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation (including easily getting lost), mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self-care, and behavioral issues. As a person's condition declines, they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Although the speed of progression can vary, the typical life expectancy following diagnosis is three to nine years.
• Reduced ability to take in and remember new information
• Impairments to reasoning, complex tasking, and exercising judgment
• Impaired visual-spatial abilities that are not, for example, due to eye sight problems
• Changes in personality and behavior
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is still unknown and is a focus of active research. There is no cure or remedy to this condition. Most treatments involve assisted care, support and monitoring of the patient. Psychological care of the close family members is also part of the treatment process since they may be prone to serious issues such as depression.
The following regime is commonly followed:
• Drug therapy
• Quality-of-life care
• Effective management of any conditions occurring alongside the Alzheimer's
• Activities and day-care programs
• Involvement of support groups and services