WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?

Alzheimer’s disease attacks and eventually destroys the thinking abilities of the brain. Short term memory is frequently the first noticeable symptom. The ability to think and plan as well as the sense of where you are in your environment slowly deteriorates as the disease progresses. The areas of the brain that control sensation and movement are generally unaffected until the late stages of the disease and the majority of those with the condition are unable to continue to handle their normal day to day activities. Alzheimer’s usually develops after 60; although, in some rare cases, it does develop earlier in life.

While the specific causes of the disease are still under study, what happens during the course of the disease is known. The normal chemical balance in the brain is disrupted which causes communication between brains cells to break down. Large amounts of two proteins called amyloid and TAU build up in the brain. Messages between brain cells are distorted by these proteins. The brain stops producing normal levels of one of the chemicals called acetylcholine that assists brain cells to send messages to one another. As Alzheimer’s progresses, brain cells shrivel and die and the areas of the brain that control cognitive functions shrink.

In the beginning, memories of the recent past are affected, and this symptom may just seem to be a part of growing older. Problems with learning and recalling new things may also appear to be related to age. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s gradually affects long term memories during the course of the disease. Familiar faces and objects are no longer recognized. The ability to follow along through simple instructions and accomplish a task is drastically impaired. You may notice that translating thoughts into speech becomes harder.

Many of the things you do daily without much thought are affected. Many of these things like locking doors, taking medicines, and getting lost even in familiar surroundings put the individual at personal risk. Alzheimer’s sufferers also frequently are unable to hand their finances. Personality changes, like anxiety, irritability, and depression, develop in about 2/3 of Alzheimer’s patients. If these changes develop before the disease is diagnosed relationships among friends and family frequently are damaged, because the true situation and the underlying cause hasn’t become known yet.

In the middle and late stages of the disease, the individual may become aggressive. Delusions of being persecuted or being stolen from by family members may also develop. Hallucinations are common. The patient may report seeing, hearing, or even feeling the touch of someone or something that isn’t really there. Wandering away from their home is another troublesome symptom of the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

weight loss clinic austinaustin regional clinic doctorsaustin endocrinologists