Alzheimer's Disease: Stages, Causes, and Treatment Approaches

Health / Life

                                                                                                 Old woman looking lost / Photo by Getty Images

 

Alzheimer's disease is considered as a progressive disease that destroys the important mental functions of a person, such as the memory. At the start, someone with this disease may experience difficulty remembering or mild confusion. Eventually, they may undergo personality changes and could lead to forgetting even the most important people in their lives.

What are the Stages of Alzheimer's Disease?

The stages of Alzheimer's disease are Mild AD or early-stage, moderate AD or middle-stage, and severe AD or late-stage. In the early stage of the Alzheimer's disease, a person can function independently. They can still work or be a part of the social activities, although they already feel the memory lapses. 

The middle-stage is the longest stage, which may last for years. The person with Alzheimer's is acting in an unexpected way. They may refuse to take a bath, confuse words, easily get angry or frustrated, and confusion of what day it is or about the location where they are. In the late-stage, the person with AD already loses their ability to respond to the environment or control movement. They require round-the-clock assistance and personal care.

 

                                                                                                 Sick old man with alzheimer's disease / Photo by Getty Images

 

The Alzheimer's Disease Symptoms

At first, the only symptoms are mild confusion and increasing forgetfulness. Over time, the Alzheimer's disease symptoms include robbing the person’s recent memories and old ones. As to how worse these symptoms are, it varies from different person. A person with AD will first notice that they have unusual difficulty organizing their thoughts or remembering things or they may not recognize that something is wrong, even when these changes are already noticeable to their family members, coworkers, or their close friends.

Changes in behavior and personality include depression, social withdrawal, apathy, mood swings, wandering, changes in sleeping habits, and aggressiveness or irritability,

 

                                                                                                 Depressed old man / Photo by Getty Images

 

The Alzheimer's Disease Causes

Scientists believe that Alzheimer's disease causes include a combination of environmental, lifestyle, and genetic factors. These things affect the brain of the person over time. Although the cause may not be fully understood, the effect of an AD on the person’s brain is clear. It kills and damages the brain cells. If the brain tissue is seen under the microscope, scientists see plaques or clumps of beta-amyloid that may destroy and damage in brain cells in various ways, such as interfering the normal cell to cell communication. There are also tangles inside the brain cells that lead to failure of the brain’s transport system.

 

                                                                                                 Comparison of a healthy and ailing brain / Photo by Getty Images

 

Alzheimer's Disease Diagnosis - How AD is Diagnosed

For the Alzheimer's disease diagnosis, the doctor will have to look for symptoms and signs of the patient. They will also check the medical history and rule out some other conditions. To do this, the doctor may have to test the neurological function, including reflexes, senses, and balance, of the patient. An MRI or CT scan of the brain, urine test, blood test, or screening for depression may also be required.

 

                                                                                                 Patient undergoing brain CT scan / Photo by Shutterstock

 

The Average Alzheimer's Disease Life Expectancy

Alzheimer's disease life expectancy differs from every person. After diagnosis, the average life expectancy will be eight to 10 years. However, there are cases when the life expectancy could be as short as three years or it may as long as 20 years. It is also not yet clear if treatment will add the time to the life of the person with the AD.

 

                                                                                                 Man taking care of his father who has alzheimer's disease / Photo by Shutterstock

 

What are the Available Alzheimer's Treatments?

As of today, there is no known cure yet for AD since the death of the brain cells will continue. However, there are Alzheimer's treatments in the form of therapeutic interventions. These treatments help make the life of the person with AD easier. It is done by effective management of the conditions, daycare programs and activities, support groups, and drug therapy.

Results in a 2016 mouse study suggested that it may soon be possible to restore the memories of people with an early AD.

 

                                                                                                 Senior people enjoying picnic in the park / Photo by Getty Images