SEPTEMBER IS WORLD ALZHEIMER’S MONTH
SEPTEMBER 21 IS WORLD ALZHEIMER’S DAY
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness of the brain that causes memory loss and disorder of thought and behavior.Unfortunately, the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not fully understood and includes a combination of genetic factors, lifestyle factors, and environmental factors. The condition usually begins with loss of short-term memory that may cause the individual to forget names, instructions and recent conversations, often leading to the individual constantly repeating questions and the content of recent conversations (mild stage). As the disease progresses into the moderate stages the individual may begin wandering and getting lost on familiar routes, and begins struggling to complete tasks her or she could previously perform with ease. Personality changes usually follow these changes and may be characterized by paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations, which can cause further exacerbate caregiver distress. In the late stages, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease lose their ability to communicate with others and become fully dependent on others for care such as feeding, bathing, and clothing. In certain cases, Alzheimer’s disease may be complicated by seizures.
Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed following a neurological examination that may include neuropsychological testing (involves tests of memory domains, problem solving, attention, counting, and language), brain scans, and the exclusion of reversible conditions that may mimic Alzheimer’s disease usually through blood tests. Advanced brain scans and spinal fluid examination are available in some centers that enable more precise diagnosis based on pathological findings such as the presence of amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles, and tau protein. Following the diagnosis, most individuals with Alzheimer’s disease live for an average of 8 to 10 years, although this life expectancy can be as little as 3 years depending on the age of diagnosis and the presence of other medical comorbidities.