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Alzheimer's Disease - an Overview

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Alzheimer's Disease - an Overview

4 min read


Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative condition that can seriously affect the quality of life.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At March 8, 2018
Reviewed AtApril 18, 2024

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain cells, with dementia being the marked symptom in the early stages. It makes the brain cells degenerate or die. Dementia is when a person forgets recent events or the conversations they had. It also affects a person’s thinking, behavior, and social skills.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, the patient develops severe memory loss and loses the ability to perform daily activities. The medications used nowadays for Alzheimer's disease can temporarily improve or slow the progression of this disease. There are various programs and services that help Alzheimer’s patients and their family members.

As of now, there is no medication available that cures Alzheimer's or changes the way this disease affects the brain. Due to a severe loss of brain function in advanced cases, death can result from infections, malnutrition, and dehydration.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

The signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

  1. Memory problems:

  • It starts with the inability to keep track of things or forgetting names.

  • Forgetting meetings, appointments, and conversations.

  • Repeating the same question again and again.

  • Often misplacing things that one uses every day.

  • Not able to remember the right words for an object or to express thoughts.

2. Difficulty in thinking, logical reasoning, and processing information.

3. Finding multitasking difficult.

4. Inability to make decisions about everyday situations.

5. Routine activities, such as cooking or gardening, become difficult to perform.

6. Personality changes:

  • Depression.

  • Mood swings.

  • Social withdrawal.

  • Irritability.

  • Aggressiveness.

  • Sleep disturbances.

  • Delusions.

7. In more advanced stages, even bathing and dressing independently poses a challenge.

What Are the Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease?

  1. Mild:

  • There is forgetfulness.

  • Ask questions repeatedly.

  • Cannot recall the names of people and places.

2. Moderate:

  • Forget information about the self.

  • Fails to remember the date, month, and year.

  • Cannot order food by self.

3. Moderately Severe:

  • Loses track of current place and time.

  • Blank about own address.

4. Severe:

  • Fails to recognize loved ones.

  • Confuses one family member for another.

  • Delusions.

  • Hard time going to the bathroom.

In the final stages, they are in bed all day and need the utmost care.


Who Gets Affected?

Two distinct types have been noticed, namely, early-onset and late-onset.

  • Early onset is a rare type seen in people aged 30 to 40 with a family history of Alzheimer's. However, this type is responsible for only 5 % of the total cases.

  • Late-onset is the more common type, and it is seen in persons aged 65 and above. There is a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors involved.

Risk Factors:

  • Age: Increasing age is a known risk factor. There is a significant increase in risk after the age of 65.

  • Genetics: Genetic mutations have been found in those with a family history of Alzheimer's.

  • Down Syndrome: Commonly seen in people with Down syndrome.

  • Sex: The number of females affected is more than that of males.

  • Severe and Repeated Head Injuries: People who have had trauma in the past.

  • Social Withdrawal: Being aloof and unsocial for various reasons significantly increases one's risk.

  • Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) - MCI is when a person’s memory and thinking skills decline when compared to their age, but it does not interfere with their ability to function.

  • Sleep Problems - Poor sleep patterns have been linked to this disease.

  • Obesity, lack of physical activity, hypertension, and high cholesterol also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.

What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?

It is still unclear why a person without a genetic factor would suddenly develop Alzheimer's. But, certain studies are guiding us toward finding the cause. When brain tissues were observed in the case of Alzheimer's, two distinct changes were observed.

  1. Deposits of beta-amyloid protein were seen to be present outside the brain cells.

  2. Twisting of tau proteins in the brain cells, causing a breakdown in the nutrient supply system.

How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?

There is no single test to diagnose Alzheimer's. Doctors use a combination of medical history, physical and neurological examinations (for balance and reflexes), imaging tests (MRI), and questionnaires to assess cognitive functioning. Imaging and other tests are used to rule out other conditions that can result in similar symptoms. The diagnostic tests include:

  1. Neurological Examination - Here, the doctor checks reflexes, muscle tone, muscle strength, sight, hearing, balance, and coordination.

  2. Blood tests - Blood tests are done to rule out other potential causes, such as thyroid problems or nutritional deficiencies.

  3. Brain Imaging - Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) are used.

  4. PET Scan - Positron emission tomography (PET) is used to get images of disease processes. Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET scans, amyloid PET imaging, and Tau PET imaging are included.

How Is Alzheimer's Disease Treated?

Going by current treatment modalities, Alzheimer's cannot be cured. There are no disease-modifying agents available as well. But, some drugs help reduce symptoms:

  1. Cholinesterase Inhibitors - Donepezil and Rivastigmine preserve a chemical messenger in the brain that gets depleted by Alzheimer's disease as they boost the levels of cell-to-cell communication.

  2. Memantine - This also works on the brain cell communication system.

  3. Antidepressants - To help with the behavioral symptoms.

It is important to understand that palliative care and the support of family and friends are the utmost necessity. It ensures that they can maintain their sense of independence and quality of life.

How Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented?

  • Exercise regularly to keep oneself active.

  • Have fresh food consisting of fruits and vegetables.

  • Stay positive and mentally active.

  • Quit alcohol and smoking.

Simply put, this disease is the result of progressive brain cell death. Keeping oneself active, cheerful, and engaged in stimulating tasks every day is the key to keeping this disease at bay. For more information, consult a neurologist online now!

What Are the Complications of Alzheimer's Disease?

A person affected by Alzheimer’s condition will be unable to:

  • Convery someone being in pain.

  • Tell someone about the symptoms of other health conditions.

  • Regularly follow a treatment plan.

  • Explain the side effects of medicine.

When this condition reaches the final stage, it will affect other activities and may cause other issues, such as

  • Fracture.

  • Bedsores.

  • Frequent falls.

  • Inhaling the food or liquid into the lungs.

  • Dehydration.

  • Poor nutrition.

  • Constipation.

  • Diarrhea.

  • Dental issues.


Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that affects the brain and can worsen over time. It is caused by alterations in the brain due to the deposition of certain proteins. This condition will result in the shrinking of the brain and the death of brain cells. There is no permanent treatment for this condition, but medication can help to manage the symptoms and prevent the progress of the condition.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the 7 Stages of Alzheimer's?

Seven stages of Alzheimer's are:
- Stage 1: Normal.
- Stage 2: Normal aged forgetfulness.
- Stage 3: Mild cognitive impairment.
- Stage 4: Mild Alzheimer's disease.
- Stage 5: Moderate Alzheimer's disease.
- Stage 6: Moderately to severe Alzheimer's disease.
- Stage 7: Severe Alzheimer's disease.


What Are the Warning Signs of Alzheimer's?

- Difficulty in planning and solving problems.
- Memory loss.
- Difficulty determining time or place.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
- Difficulty finding the right words.
- Vision loss.
- Difficulty making decisions.
- Withdrawing from work and social events
- Misplacing items.
- Experiencing mood and personality changes. Extreme swings in
- personality and mood may occur. A notable change in moods are depression, confusion, fearfulness, and anxiety.


What Is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease?

Dementia is the term referred to a group of symptoms that negatively affect memory. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that slowly causes impairment in cognitive and memory function. The exact causes are unknown, and still no cure is available.


How Does Peanut Butter Detect Alzheimer's?

A peanut butter test is done to diagnose Alzheimer's disease. It can be done by measuring the patient’s ability to smell peanut butter through each nostril. If the patient is not able to detect it, then they might probably be having Alzheimer’s.


Which Is Worse Dementia or Alzheimer's?

Dementia, in general, used to define symptoms that impact the performance of daily activities, communication abilities, and memory. Alzheimer's disease is a common type of dementia. Alzheimer's disease gets more critical with time and affects language, memory, and thought.


What Exactly Is Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain and irreversible disorder that gradually destroys thinking and memory skills and, eventually, the capacity to perform the everyday routine tasks. In most people, the symptoms first appear in their mid-60s.


How Is Alzheimer's Diagnosed?

Doctors conduct tests to diagnose Alzheimer's dementia by assessing memory impairment and other thinking skills, identifying behavior changes, and judging functional abilities. They also perform a range of tests to direct out other possible causes of impairment.


Do Alzheimer's Patients Sleep a Lot?

Rather than sleeping at night, they may sleep a lot during the day. Some others may experience a phenomenon known as sundowning, which can cause restlessness, confusion, or irritability as daylight darkens. Usually, it can be difficult for an Alzheimer's patient to remain in their beds and fall asleep.


How Long Do Alzheimer Patients Live?

The lifespan of a person with Alzheimer's disease differs from the severity and age of the patient. Some patients are known to survive for 20 years or more. The neuroplasticity of the brain can end up in any way. The people surrounding these kinds of patients must be alert and positive all the time.


Can Alzheimer Be Cured?

This particular mental health condition cannot be cured. As this condition comes in an older adult, that patient might already be having other health-related illnesses. Once the person starts developing severe signs, the family members around them should help the patient find the lost objects or remind them of some significant events. Medications for this condition might not be beneficial.
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Dr. Vasantha. K. S
Dr. Vasantha. K. S



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