Alzheimer’s disease .. Senile Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease or senile dementia is the most common form of dementia in people aged 65 and over. This disease causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and worsen over time. A patient’s symptoms may become severe enough to interfere with activities of daily living.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
Two types of abnormal proteins deposit in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. The first is the beta-
amyloid plaque which form outside and around neurons and neurofibrillary tangles made up of the tau protein that build up inside nerve cells. These structures are pathognomonic of this neurodegenerative disease.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease.
The disease can be separated into three stages: early, middle, and late.
In the early stage, it is typical for a patient to forget words or misplace objects, forget something they just read, or ask the same question repeatedly. They also demonstrate difficulty with making plans and not remembering names when meeting new people. Personality changes can become evident in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Signs include irritability, apathy, withdrawal and isolation.
The middle stage involves increased memory loss and confusion, problems recognizing family and friends, and continuous repetition of stories. In addition, the patient demonstrates the inability to perform complex tasks like making dinner, balancing their checkbook, and they require assistance with dressing appropriately as well as maintaining personal hygiene.
The late or severe stage, involves almost total memory loss. The individual may recognize faces but forget names. He/She may mistake a person for someone else. The patient may have delusions about going to work when they are no longer employed. Furthermore, basic skills such as speaking, eating, and walking deteriorate.
Depression is common throughout all stages of this disease.
The patient becomes completely dependent on caregivers. The prognosis is poor. Life expectancy is 8-10 years after diagnosis.
Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are likely to develop other illnesses and typically die from pneumonia.
Diagnostic imaging and laboratory testing plays an important role in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Your doctor may order tests in order to arrive at the correct diagnosis.
Some of these tests include:
- Computed tomography (CT). A CT scan is a technique in which multiple X-rays of the body are taken
from different angles in a very short period of time. These images are then interpreted by a computer,
which creates a series of cross-sectional “slices” of the body.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses a large magnet and a computer to produce images of bone, soft tissue, and organs. MRI is beneficial in ruling out other causes of dementia, such as tumors or strokes.
- Electroencephalography (EEG) is a medical imaging technique that measures brain function by analyzing the electrical activity generated by the brain. This activity is measured through special electrodes applied to the scalp. It is helpful in the diagnosis of brain disorders.
- Videonystagmography (VNG) is a series of tests used to determine the causes of a patient’s dizziness or balance disorders. A Doppler test uses ultrasound waves to assess the movement of blood through the blood vessels.
- In addition, your physician may refer you for neuropsychological testing.
Neuropsychology studies the relationship between the brain and behavior.
Neuropsychological testing also can aid the doctor and the family to better understand the impact of this disease on a patient’s everyday functioning.
There are medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
These drugs include:
- NAMENDA XR® (memantine hydrochloride) extended-release capsules are approved for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, there is Namzaric and Namenda. Other medications include Donepezil Hydrochloride (ARICEPT), Rivastigmine (Exelon), and Galantamine Hydrobromide (Razadyne).
As always, early diagnosis is important for the best outcome.
If you suspect you or a loved one may be showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease please call and consult with your doctor immediately.
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