Alzheimer's disease

Specialty of Neurology

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative brain disorder that severely affects certain mental functions of the patient and interferes with their daily lives. It is the most common form of dementia in the UK.

This disease has different stages:

  • Mild stage: The disease still goes unnoticed because the patient suffers minor memory problems. In addition, signs of apathy, isolation and mood swings may appear.
  • Moderate stage: The disease is evident, and the patient will have difficulties performing daily activities such as shopping or cooking. In addition to memory loss, there will be a lack of reasoning.
  • Severe stage: All areas related to cognitive function are affected. The patient loses the ability to speak and to recognise people around them. Generally the patient will be in a state of constant disorientation.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?

At the beginning of the disease, the patient shows small memory losses such as difficulty remembering recent things or names of people. These symptoms get worse until they are unable to recognise close family members and have difficulty reasoning, speaking, reading and writing.

The main neurological symptoms are:

  • Inability to retain new information.
  • Inability to remember personal information such as birthdays or profession.
  • Alteration in reasoning capacity.
  • Aphasia
  • Apraxia
  • Loss of spatial capacity
  • Changes in character and personality.

What causes Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's is caused by the degeneration of connections between brain cells, as well as genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors. Although the exact cause is unknown, the effect of the disease is the damaging and killing of brain cells. A brain in an Alzheimer’s patient has fewer connections between brain cells than in the brain of a healthy person.

There are also certain risk factors for Alzheimer’s, including: 

  • Age: usually affects people over 60-65 years old.
  • Sex: more women are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
  • Family heritage: it is estimated that 40% of Alzheimer's patients have a family history.
  • Genetic factor: several mutations in the gene of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) or in that of presenilin 1 and 2.
  • Environmental factors

What is the treatment for Alzheimer's disease?

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but some drugs can help delay the disease and its symptoms. Activities and support also play an important part in the care of Alzheimer’s patients. 

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