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December 13, 2016 | Neurology
There are many conditions that can become more likely or more severe as we age, and several of them include issues in the brain. It’s natural in many people for elements of the brain to start failing before their bodies do the same, and sometimes this causes diseases people have to live with for several years.
A good example of this type of condition is Alzheimer’s disease, which affects memory, and is the primary cause of dementia. In some circles, Alzheimer’s is just considered a form of dementia. Alzheimer’s usually starts out with mild symptoms and progresses over long periods of time into something more serious. While there are medications to help treat the symptoms, there is no true cure.
What are some of the common warning signs, symptoms and treatment methods for Alzheimer’s disease?
Doctors are still working to completely understand the exact causes of Alzheimer’s, but there is a general consensus that three broad factors are most important:
While we can’t yet pinpoint these factors as direct causes, there are several elements known to increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease:
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s typically start out pretty mildly, with bouts of confusion here or there. As time wears on, though, things get worse. Different people see the disease progress at different rates, and part of what makes it difficult to diagnose is that the person suffering from it often can’t tell what’s happening because they can’t remember.
Specific symptoms of Alzheimer’s as it progresses include:
Certain core memories we create early in life are the last ones taken by Alzheimer’s – in some cases, people actually pass away before these skills are completely gone. Some of these include:
Despite maintaining early memories, Alzheimer’s is a frustrating disease, especially in its later stages. Forgetting the people you love and losing basic functions you’ve had your entire life are tough situations to deal with, especially with the knowledge (in some people) that your life may be drawing to a close.
In the later stages, Alzheimer’s also affects the brain in a way that it can’t manage certain parts of the body. This means sufferers are at a higher risk for other dangerous conditions. And of course, reporting the symptoms of these conditions is difficult for many of these people.
The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is based on symptoms alone. There are no tests, and doctors only know someone had Alzheimer’s with 100 percent certainty when they examine the brain after death. Blood tests might help rule out other diseases, but they won’t prove Alzheimer’s.
There are tests that help give strong indicators, though. A couple of the main ones include:
As we noted above, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Treatment focuses on limiting symptoms and increasing comfort and quality of life. A few of the primary treatment areas include:
Some people look to vitamins and herbal supplements, but while these may limit symptoms for some people, there’s no scientific evidence that they’re effective. If they make the patient feel like things are improving, though, then there’s no downside to using them as long as they’re not dangerous in any way.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.