Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible disease many are terrified of. It is important that you know more about the diagnosis, the progression timeline and how to manage the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most commonly occurring type of dementia, generally manifesting itself in older individuals (65 or older), though early onset Alzheimer’s can occur much earlier. Discovered in 1906, it is currently incurable, devastatingly degenerative, and ultimately terminal. Approximately 27 million people worldwide are thought to suffer from the condition.
Because the disease often manifests at an advanced age, the initial symptoms can often be mistakenly attributed to normal signs of aging. While Alzheimer’s onset and progression of symptoms can be different for everyone, one distinctive sign of the condition is an inability to form new memories or recall recently observed events. Once Alzheimer’s is suspected, behavioral and cognitive tests, as well as a brain scan, can all be performed to confirm it.
Progression of Alzheimer’s
The disease, which has a clear biological component (the deterioration of the brain, followed by bodily functions), can progress undiagnosed for a number of years. Once it is identified, the average lifespan of the patient is approximately seven years.
Intermediate and advanced symptoms include irritability, aggression, confusion, sharp mood swings, long term memory loss (to supplement the already existing short term memory loss), and mental withdrawal. Less than three percent of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s live more than fourteen years.
Management of Alzheimer’s
The causes and chronological progression of Alzheimer’s are not very well understood. A number of initial studies claimed that the ingestion of metals, particularly aluminum, was the culprit.
These studies have since been either discredited or sharply criticized. “Plaques” and “tangles” in the brain, both of which can be physically detected and analyzed, have been shown to correlate with the disease’s occurrence and progression, though it seems modern science has not found very much to utilize this knowledge for as far as treatment goes.
Out of hundreds of clinical trials thus far conducted all over the world, none have shown a discernable ability to halt or even slow Alzheimer’s march. Mental stimulation, exercise, and proper nutrition have been suggested as ways of managing and preventing the disease, but no conclusive evidence has been offered to prove these lifestyle changes are capable of either.
As the disease can cause the patient to forget who they are, their relationship to others around them, and possibly cost them their grip on reality itself, proper care is necessary for a person suffering from Alzheimer’s. The job of primary caregiver usually falls on the closest relative, but this is often times an extremely stressful and time consuming task (it can literally require twenty four hour a day attention).
There are a number of nursing homes that specialize in patients with Alzheimer’s or other mentally degenerative diseases that have the necessary staff and facilities for such patients. These homes or institutions are almost universally necessary for patients whose Alzheimer’s has progressed to an advanced stage where they have lost control of speech and most bodily functions.
Alzheimer’s disease is devastating and seemingly without a cure, but there is hope on the horizon. It has a very clear manifestation in the brain; the “means of infection” can be observed. It is simply a matter of time before science identifies the particular culprit responsible.