Alzheimer's Disease

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is caused by chemical deposits called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ inside the nerve cells. This means some of the brain cells do not work properly and eventually die. There is also a reduced amount of the chemicals in the brain that help to transmit messages. As these plaques and tangles grow and there are less of these message chemicals in the brain, brain cells are progressively damaged. People with Alzheimer’s disease therefore decline over time and their symptoms get worse.

Symptoms

Generally the first symptoms people start to notice are problems in remembering recent events and conversations and difficulty remembering names, places, and dates. Over time these symptoms get worse and people with Alzheimer’s disease may experience :

  • Frequently becoming confused and forgetting names of people and places they are well acquainted with
  • Communication problems and will be unable to express themselves easily
  • Problems with thinking clearly, planning and making decisions
  • Difficulties carrying out daily tasks such as washing, dressing and cooking
  • Mood swings and increased frustration with their memory loss

Everyone progresses differently. In later stages of the disease, people will need 24 hour care and support with all their daily living activities.

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease

When testing for Alzheimer’s disease, doctors will perform memory and thinking tests; a physical examination; a thorough medical history and will often arrange blood and brain imaging tests to see whether there is damage to the brain. This helps to rule out other conditions that could be displaying dementia-like symptoms and can be treated.

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