Alzheimer’s is associated primarily with memory lapses that occur with advancement in age. In addition to memory lapses, persons may experience physical or verbal outbursts, emotional distress, restlessness, hallucinations or delusions. Some amount of memory loss, with advancement in age is normal and is not a sign of Alzheimer’s. In fact there is a very thin line of separation with memory lapses that are ‘normal’ and those that signal Alzheimer’s. So if you fear someone elderly in your family to be suffering from Alzheimer’s, it is best to consult a doctor.
Alzheimer’s has acquired its name from the name of a German doctor with similar name who first described it in 1906.
Like machinery, our body also undergoes wear and tear with time. It is common for thinking to slow down and have occasional problems remembering certain things. However, in some cases brain cells start ‘failing’. This manifests itself in serious memory loss, confusion amongst other symptoms.
The brain is a network of 100 billion nerve cells( neurons). These nerve cells communicate with each other. Nerve cells are assigned special jobs. Some may be involved in thinking, learning and remembering while others are engaged in seeing, hearing , smelling. Brain cells operate like tiny factories. They are involved in the work of taking in supplies, generating energy and throw out waste material. Brain cells are also involved in the job of processing and storing information. For smooth functioning of the brain, it needs coordination amongst cells and large amounts of fuel and oxygen.
In persons affected with Alzheimer’s, parts of the cell’s factory face problems in running well. Experts are still not sure about the site where the problem starts. Different parts of brain are interrelated. So problem in one part interferes with normal functioning of other parts too. Finally, the cells die.
Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells. This leads to problems with memory, thinking and behavior. These problems could be severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life. With time, Alzheimer’s gets worse and is fatal. Today about 5 million Americans are suffering from this disease. Alzheimer’s has emerged as the sixth leading cause of death in US. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a general term for loss of memory and other intellectual abilities that interfere with daily life.
Sadly, there is no ‘cure’ as such for Alzheimer’s. Still there are drugs that slow the advancement of Alzheimer’s and help in checking deterioration of symptoms. Treatment for Alzheimer’s is divided into two categories: “cognitive” and “behavioral and psychiatric”. Former affect memory, judgment, language, planning, concentration and other thought processes. Behavioral and psychiatric symptoms affect the way the patient feels and acts.