Alzheimer’s disease is a specific degenerative disease of the central nervous system that affects mainly elderly people. In 1906, the disease was described for the first time by A. Altsgeymerom and it was named after him.
Alzheimer’s disease usually begins between the ages of 55-60 years. The main manifestations of this disease are disorders of speech. Patients forget the names of things, no longer understood what was said to them about. Gradually lose simple skills – cannot independently dress, wash, open the door.
The earlier it begins, the harder it is leaking. In 70 years, it looks like a simple senile dementia.
Typically, the time orientation suffers first. The disturbing idea of timing the events, in other cases, the disease begins with changes in the character. People become rude, selfish, apathetic, earlier inherent personality traits are getting erased. The first manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease may be delusions or hallucinations, and prolonged depression. In the first stages of disease, patients rarely get to see a doctor, especially if there are no mental disorders. Usually, relatives of the patient consider impaired memory and changes in nature as a manifestation of the natural aging. Nowadays, the treatment, initiated in the beginning of disease, is most efficient. At present, there are methods of neuropsychological and instrumental inspections that allow the doctors to make the correct diagnosis in the early stages of disease.
With further advancement of the dementia, symptoms become apparent: disturbed time and space orientation. Patients do not know the current date or even year, they lose orientation in familiar grounds, do not always understand where they are, they do not recognize their friends and the people they loved. Patients cannot name their age, lose sight of the main facts of their lives. Often there is a shift in time: they imagine themselves as if they were children, and claim that their dead parents are still alive. They cannot perform basic actions: patients can forget how to use their household appliances; they forget how to dress or wash themselves. They can lose the ability of speaking and writing or change it. At the beginning, their vocabulary becomes poor. Current events, in the statements of the patient, are being replaced with false memories. Gradually, more and more their speech loses its meaning, the statements of the patients are built of stereotyped phrases, fragmentary words and syllables. In last stages of this disease, patients can forget all abilities to live without assistance, speech and physical activity is limited to senseless cries and common movements in the bed.
The causes of Alzheimer’s disease were not significantly explored. Brain images of the patients showed extensive destruction of nerve cells, resulting in the loss of mental ability. Some researchers believe that the disease may be caused by a lack of substances that are necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses between cells, as well as brain tumors, head injuries, hypothyroidism or poisoning by toxic metals.
There is a research data, according to which, a higher risk of developing the disease include those who:
- Have relatives with such disease (genetic predisposition).
- Are prone to depression.
- People who take care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies show that active mental activity throughout life, including the possession of at least two languages, can significantly delay the onset of disease.
There are no tests that would accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, physicians need to rule out other diseases, causing the symptoms of dementia, especially those that can be treated: a tumor, trauma, infection, metabolic disorders, drugs overdose and mental disorders such as depression or anxiety syndromes. Even after the exclusion of other diseases, it is still hard to diagnose the Alzheimer’s disease. It can only be confirmed by the microscopic examination of brain tissue, which is usually done posthumously. Only occasionally this investigation can be carried out on a living person, for which doctors take small samples of brain tissue.
The first symptoms are the following: forgetfulness, inattention, anxiety, emotional disturbances, disorientation in time, space and the surrounding objects, apathy.
One of the most typical early signs is the complaints of a person about the difficulties in filling receipts, performing mathematical operations. Sometimes there is delirium, hallucinations and convulsions.
Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease consists in the selection of individual drug therapy combined with attentive care, preferably – at home. Hospitalization is indicated only for the period of selection of optimum therapy, and in dangerous conditions – anti-social behavior, mental manifestations. In other cases, hospitalization may contrary exacerbate the disease; it is very susceptible to external factors.
The treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is quite expensive. The blockers of glutamate NMDA-receptor and cholinesterase inhibitors are used in most cases.
At present, such a patient cannot be cured, but there are methods of preventing and slowing the progression of the disease. They can delay the disease progression for many years, partially offset the poor mental function, and maintain social functioning of patients.
The average life expectancy of a patient after diagnosis is 5-7 years, but there are cases of survival for 12 and 21 years.
Scientists, by throughout the world, are still actively pursuing the goal, aimed at finding ways to treat the disease.