Alzheimer’s Disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. Symptoms usually develop slowly and worsen over time becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
Progressive memory loss is one of the common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, loss of short-term memory (essential for absorbing information). It can interfere with ability to interact socially and perform ones work. Disorientation becomes more pronounced and extends to places and people. Sense of time becomes distorted. Changes in personality, loss of language skills, poor judgement and planning occurs. Depression is common, because of chemical changes in the brain, and understandable psychological reaction to the loss of mental abilities. There is a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities.
Early and careful evaluation is very important because many conditions, treatable or reversible, can cause dementia. If early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is made there are now treatments available and things that can be done to delay the effects. The family doctor may do part of the evaluation and then recommend a neurologist, geriatrician, or other specialist to complete it.
There is no cure available for Alzheimer’s disease at present. But good planning and medical and social management can ease the burden on the patient and family. Physical exercise and social activity are important as well as proper nutrition. There are new drugs available now that will relieve some of the symptoms. The drugs can give a “boost” to failing memory function. While they are of modest symptomatic benefit it does not alter the rate of progression of the disease or have a curative effect. Improvement has been maintained over a significant period of time-anything from 2-3 year. This in turn provides welcome relief to families and carers whose role can be emotionally and physically challenging.
What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?
Dementia is a decline in thinking, reasoning, and/or remembering. People with dementia have difficulty carrying out daily tasks they have performed routinely and independently throughout their lives. Vascular dementia, a hardening of the arteries in the brain that causes blockage in blood flow, is one of the two most common forms of dementia; the other is Alzheimer’s disease. These two conditions account for the vast majority of cases; both are irreversible, although sometimes their symptoms can be managed.
A doctor can accurately determine whether a person is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. If a person appears to be losing mental abilities to a degree that interferes with daily activities and social interactions it is recommended to consult a doctor.