Alzheimers Dementia Solicitors - Medical Negligence Compensation Lawyers
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Alzheimers Dementia Medical Overview
Alzheimer's dementia or "Alzheimer's disease" is a progressive and irreversible brain disease that wrecks a person's ability to think and to have memory. The symptoms usually occur roughly around the age of 60 but can occur earlier or later than that. It is the most common type of dementia. It involves the loss of cognitive functioning, which means loss of remembering, reasoning and thinking that interferes with activities of daily living. About five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's dementia at this time.
The brains of those with Alzheimer's disease are filled with amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which are bundles of fiber interspersed between brain cells. There is also a loss of connections between neurons in the brain. No one knows the exact cause of Alzheimer's disease but it is known that the brain damage happens one to two decades before the trouble is actually noticeable. The tangles tend to form deep inside the brain and the plaque forms in other parts of the brain. The neurons lose their functionality and eventually die. It involves the hippocampus, which is involved in the formation of memory. Eventually, the brain shrinks and the person is at end stage disease.
Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's dementia involve are divided into early signs and later signs. The early stage symptoms include short term memory loss, occasional confusion and a loss of interest in normal activities. People with mild disease can get lost easily and can have trouble handling money, poor judgement and take longer to complete normal tasks of daily living. There can be mild mood changes as well.
Those with moderate disease have problems with reasoning and language, processing of sensory input and problems with conscious thought. Confusion and memory loss worsen and people have problems recognizing family members. They may have problems getting dressed and can have trouble with delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. In severe dementia, there is a lack of communications along with complete dependency on others for dressing and other cares.
Alzheimer's dementia is likely a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental issues. It isn't really known what exactly causes the disease to occur in some people and not in others. In a few families, there is a strong genetic component to the disease and family members get Alzheimer's dementia in their 30s-50s. There is apparently a mutation in one of three genes inherited from one of their parents. In those with late onset Alzheimer's disease, there is an abnormal APOE gene that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's dementia. Not all people with an abnormal APOE gene get the disease, however.
It is felt that a healthy diet along with physical activity and sociality can prevent Alzheimer's disease. Those that have mentally stimulating lives are less likely to develop mental impairment from this condition. Alzheimer's disease may also be related to things like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and stroke.
The diagnosis of Alzheimer's dementia is largely a clinical one. People can undergo mental status tests and a physical exam which will show the memory and cognitive changes. An actual diagnosis can only be diagnosed after death when, during an autopsy, a brain biopsy is done. The biopsy will show the neurofibrillary tangles and the plaques so consistent with the disease. An MRI or CT scan of the head can show if there is another cause of the dementia and can rule out those causes.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's dementia but there are treatments that can lessen the impact of the disease. There are medications approved to treat Alzheimer's disease, particularly if it is caught in its early stages. These include Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne and Namenda. Namenda is also used for moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. They regulate the neurotransmitters in the brain and can maintain function, such as thinking, memory and activity. Unfortunately, they only work for a few months or a few years.
The behavioural issues related to Alzheimer's disease can be treated with drugs to control behavior and with behavioral training. The therapies to treat Alzheimer's disease work best in controlled settings such as a nursing home.
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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here