According to recent estimates, more than 850 000 people* suffer from Alzheimer’s disease in France nowadays. It is the first cause of dementia for people over 65 years old. As of today, there is no identified cure for this disease. However, an early detection of the main symptoms can surely help choosing the best care for the patient.
Alzheimer’s disease: a progressive illness
On average, the final diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is reached around 65 years old. It is a neurodegenerative disorder, causing a progressive loss of neurons and reducing the related functions. There is no identified treatment for this disease yet. Nevertheless, certain actions can make it easier for the patient to live with the disease: physical activity, cognitive stimulation, an adapted diet, etc.
The actual causes of this disease are still unknown. Research is currently focusing on external factors such as pollution (heavy metal contamination in particular) or drug intoxication (inadequate prescriptions and/or neglected dosage), as well as genetic causes.
There are many consequences of the appearance of Alzheimer’s disease: they concern the ill person, at first, but they also impact the person’s family members and relatives, upon whom lies the burden of the diseased person.
Symptoms of the first phases
Alzheimer’s disease was first defined in 1906, but it has been under-diagnosed and frequently confused for other types of age-related degenerations for a long time.
Alzheimer’s disease implies very specific brain damage; particularly on the temporal lobe. The progress of medical imaging and the numerous tests carried out since the 1960’s now allow to perform an accurate diagnosis of the disease.
The first stages of Alzheimer’s disease are often very difficult to identify, even for the ill person himself or herself. Indeed, most of the signs are simply interpreted as effects of ageing, fatigue or stress.
– Memory disorder: The signs are faint in the beginning, but they get worse with time. At first, it involves a loss of short-term memory (recent events) and difficulties to take in new information. You can also note that the person starts struggling in certain tasks, such as organizing everyday life and placing memories on a time scale.
– Semantic memory disorder: We all have trouble finding our words sometimes! But when it becomes frequent, that the person starts lacking vocabulary or has difficulties putting complex ideas into words, remain vigilant.
– Attention disorder: The person is unusually distracted, often gazing into the distance. For instance, forgetting why you came into a room, or forgetting a dish in the oven, are common examples of an attention disorder.
– Motor ability disorder: In the same way, signs can be very subtle in the earliest stage of the disease. It involves a certain clumsiness, causing small incidents (breaking dishes, spilling containers) in the course of everyday actions. Those signs can be interpreted as the typical coordination disorders that happen in the early times of Alzheimer’s disease.
– Finally, other signs, such as mood swings, continuous tiredness, or apathy, if they seem unusual and when they are associated to some of the symptoms described above, should draw your attention.
True illness of the century, Alzheimer’s disease is subject to numerous medical research projects, hopefully to discover an efficient treatment in the near future. In the meantime, an early detection of the disease remains the best way to face it with more serenity.
* Source: France Alzheimer 2013The actual causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still unknown. Click To Tweet