Last time, we looked at the causes and symptoms of dementia. Now, let’s take a closer look at Alzheimer’s disease.
The causes and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease stems from a protein, called beta-amyloid, building up in the brain between nerve cells to from what are known as plaques. There is another protein, called tau, that accumulates in the brain and forms what are called tangles. This results in the neurons of the brain shrinking, and eventually, dying. As with Lewy body dementia, scientists do not know precisely what causes the initial onset of the protein build ups that lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may include:
- Short-term memory problems, and eventually, loss of long-term memory
- Impaired judgment
- Repeating the same questions and statements
- Getting lost, even in familiar surroundings
- Personality changes
- Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and being awake at night
- Paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations
- Eventually, an inability to accomplish routine tasks like dressing, preparing food, and even swallowing
While all forms of dementia are progressive, some types allow for longer life spans than others. For instance, the average life expectancy in cases of Alzheimer’s disease is eight to 10 years, while in cases of vascular dementia the figure is five years.
Although there is currently no cure for dementia, the good news is that numerous research studies and clinical trials are exploring ways to diagnose, treat, and manage it. Some medications, including cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, have been shown to lessen or delay the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Various strategies have also been developed to improve the quality of life and comfort of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Hopefully, science will soon discover more effective treatments, and ultimately, a cure.