What Is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative neurological disorder that leads to impairments in memory, thinking and reasoning. It is a late-life illness that causes a form of brain failure. It produces confused thinking, impairs judgment, changes personality, alters behavior. The illness is progressive and ultimately results in death. While it cannot be cured, it can be treated.
During the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease, many people are aware that their memory is failing. The progression of Alzheimer's disease may last up to 20 years in some individuals. People in the final stages require 24-hour care, as they become completely dependent for even the most basic activities such as eating, bathing, and using the bathroom. Near the end, patients become bed-bound and mute.
The third stage covers the period from the onset of total care to death; it usually lasts one to three years. At this stage, most people are in a nursing home. They have usually lost all concepts of past and future. They may not recognize family members though they usually are aware that they are friendly people who care for them. They lose all bowel and bladder control and toward the latter part of this stage lose the ability to walk. Near the end, they lose the ability to speak and to swallow and may refuse to take food or liquid by mouth. Death intervenes at this point.
People who are worried about memory problems should see their doctor. If the doctor believes that the problem is serious, then a physical, neurological, and psychiatric evaluation may be recommended. A complete medical examination for memory loss may include gathering information about the person's medical history, including use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems, and general health. The doctor also may ask a family member for information about the person.
Blood tests and urine test may be taken to help the doctor find any problems. There are also tests of mental abilities. A scan also may show signs of normal age-related changes in the brain. It may be necessary to have another scan at a later date to see if there have been changes in the brain.
Alzheimer's disease and multi-infarct dementia can exist together, making it hard for the doctor to diagnose either one specifically. Scientists use to think that multi-infarct dementia and other types of vascular dementia caused most cases of mental impairment. They now think that most older people with irreversible dementia have Alzheimer's disease.
Wellness and Prevention
There is no certain way to prevent Alzheimer's disease. It may be possible to reduce the risk of developing the illness, Because Alzheimer's disease occurs late in life and there is such a long interval between...