What is Alzheimer's?One of the main hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is the accumulation of amyloid plaques (yellow in the picture) between the neurons (blue in the picture) in the brain. Click to enlarge.
For Alzheimer's are also the names dementia of the Alzheimer's type (Alzheimer's dementia) and Alzheimer's disease common. However, all terms have in common that this disease is the deterioration of mental capacity. In addition, Alzheimer's characterized by a memory weakness. This increases in the further course of the disease and ultimately leads to the complete loss of personality and judgment.
A combination of hereditary factors, inflammatory processes and environmental influences is believed to be the cause of Alzheimer's disease. According to current medical findings, the disease develops through a slow progressive death of nerve cells in the brain.
The reason is damaging deposits, so-called amyloids. These are likely to interfere with nerve cell communication in certain areas of the brain. The changes begin well before the onset of the first symptoms. It is believed that certain influences may favor Alzheimer's.
These include, for example:
- heavier brain damage during life
- strong nicotine consumption
- high blood pressure
- unhealthy diet
At Alzheimer's basically every person can get sick. However, the risk increases with age. However, some factors can be ruled out by a healthy lifestyle.
According to recent studies¹, smokers in particular are at high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Both long-term smokers and former smokers have been able to detect these negative effects on the brain. The risk of developing Alzheimer's is twice as high in smokers as in non-smokers. Furthermore, the intellectual abilities of smokers decrease significantly after the age of 50, whereas in non-smokers only 20 years later a significant limitation of mental activities is observed.
¹ Whitehall II study from University College London 2012
Symptoms, complaints & signs
The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are manifold. However, upon close observation, some typical signs can be detected. The suspicion of Alzheimer's arises in most older people by their conspicuous forgetfulness. Without realizing it, the nerve cell processes and connections within the brain die for years.
In the further course, the nerve cells themselves are affected, resulting in the decline of the brain tissue. Depending on which brain area is damaged, there is a decline in the skills and functions there. This is noticeable in the short-term memory, the judgment, the language and the ability to do routine work. The person's behavior, communication, feelings, and recognition skills also suffer from dementia.
The medicine classifies Alzheimer's disease at an early, middle and late stage. These stadiums can last for several years. First, mood swings, memory problems and loss of performance occur. In addition, the patient no longer expresses himself precisely and reduces his social contacts.
In the middle stage, the intellectual loss of performance progresses further and the psyche and personality of the person affected changes increasingly. In addition, the patient needs help in completing everyday things.
In the late stage, the patient can not go out without help. In addition, physical symptoms such as the loss of bladder and bowel functions, falls, seizures and dysphagia. There is also the risk of deadly infections.
Alzheimer's disease is not the same in all patients. The course is usually characterized by three stages.
Phase 1: In the early phase of the disease, patients often feel tired, impulsive and powerless. They suffer from mood swings and lose their spontaneity. It shows the first slight memory disorders. In addition, the sufferers react more slowly and are afraid of new things. However, at this stage, those affected are only slightly affected in their activities. An independent life without help is still possible.
Phase 2: Alzheimer's sufferers can only cope with their daily lives to a limited degree.
- mental loss is increasing
- Increased occurrence of behavioral changes, speech difficulties and forgetfulness
- Memory loss continues
- possibly occurring delusions
- cognitive disorders
- Difficulty performing simple tasks, for example, in the home
- Neglect of hygiene
Already at this stage, help by nursing staff or relatives is useful and necessary. It should be worked to ensure that Alzheimer's sufferers can perform activities in everyday life for as long as possible independently.β-amyloid peptides are found as deposits in the brain and blood vessels of Alzheimer's patients. Physicians believe that treatment for ß-amyloids would improve the symptoms of this disease. Click to enlarge.
Phase 3: At this stage, the disease has progressed so far that the patients depend on constant care and help. The course of the disease is characterized in the third stage by:
- Memory and speech decay
- complete loss of everyday life skills
- Detection disorders even in close caregivers
- Difficulty eating and swallowing
- Bladder and faecal incontinence
In this last severe phase Alzheimer's sufferers usually have only the innate reflexes. This means that instinct and feelings are present. A loving and understanding as well as caring care contributes greatly to the well-being of the patients, so that they still feel happy and secure.
When should you go to the doctor?
Alzheimer's should be treated as early as possible by a physician to effectively counteract this condition. The first signs of Alzheimer's are usually the loss of recent memories. Concerned people who suffer from Alzheimer's will initially suffer from small memory gaps. Already at this time first measures should be taken, so that the illness can be delayed as well as possible. The memory of the person must be stimulated to work in such a case again.
Even with appropriate drugs, this disease can be effectively combated and inhibited. However, those who refrain from appropriate treatment with the right medicines in Alzheimer's disease are at risk of a rapidly progressing illness. The symptoms or the forgetfulness will be immensely worse, so that the respective person can not remember memories of the long-term memory. Thus, defining events of one's own biography are no longer available.
Unfortunately, according to the current state of medicine, there are no complete chances of recovery in Alzheimer's disease. However, the disease can be delayed for a long time, so that the affected person life is made as pleasant as possible. For this reason, medical attention should be sought promptly at the first sign of Alzheimer's disease.
Doctors & Therapists in your area↳ To find specialist doctors and therapists in your area, please click on: "Search specialists in your area" or enter an address of your choice (eg "Berlin" or "Augustenburger Platz 1 Berlin"). f.name) .join (', ') "> ↳ You are a doctor or therapist and are missing here? Contact us!
Treatment & Therapy
Alzheimer's therapy is divided into two different approaches. On the one hand the drug treatment, on the other hand the non-drug measures. In drug therapy, two substance groups are available, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and memantines. In the case of patients, the therapy with the corresponding medication has a very positive effect, so that they can often participate more actively in everyday life.
However, to treat Alzheimer's efficiently, a combination of drug and non-drug treatment is necessary. Non-pharmacological measures always have the goal of maintaining the independence of patients as long as possible and thus delaying the need for care. Through various therapeutic measures Alzheimer's patients are mentally and physically supported. However, Alzheimer's disease is still not completely curable. You can only slow it down.
Outlook & Forecast
The course of Alzheimer's disease may vary from patient to patient. However, the prognosis is similar for those affected. Alzheimer's disease is creeping and causes death on average within eight to ten years. The actual cause of death are usually comorbidities such as pneumonia or blood poisoning, triggered by pressure ulcers as a result of bedriddenness.
Patients are usually reliant on help and care relatively quickly after the diagnosis and often develop psychological symptoms as a result of this stress. Only in a small proportion of patients can the loss of health be temporarily stopped.
Through comprehensive drug and psychosocial interventions, it is now possible to temporarily stabilize brain performance and restore a sense of control to those affected. However, this is only possible in the initial stage. As the disease progresses, the weakened immune system produces concomitant symptoms that ultimately lead to death. The prospect of a full recovery is therefore not given in Alzheimer's. However, modern therapy measures can slow down the course of the disease and enable those affected to live a relatively normal life.
Alzheimer's runs in different phases. Characteristic is a progression that ultimately results in patients becoming fully dependent on care. This progress may be short or take several years. Once the disease has been diagnosed, you have to accept it. She is not curable.
Thus, a follow-up, as usual with other infirmities, does not have the function of preventing a recurrence. On the other hand, doctors try to eliminate complications and support patients in their everyday lives. This is done after a diagnosis, a continuous follow-up. The attending physician regularly prescribes medicines whose dosage he adjusts to the state of the disease.
In addition, he also prescribes psychosocial training such as occupational therapy and physiotherapy. The intervals at which a patient must present himself are agreed individually. As part of a follow-up, doctors are mainly dependent on the descriptions of relatives and friends. They note mental changes the most intense.
Your practice descriptions are usually more meaningful than the snapshot of an investigation. Patients often have to take small mental tests during the consultation. For this purpose neuropsychological procedures were developed. To exclude further illnesses, some physicians also order an MRI or a CT. Even blood tests are meaningful and common.
You can do that yourself
Self-help plays a role in Alzheimer's especially at the beginning of the disease. People with advanced dementia are often in need of care or need more support. The requirements that result from this can no longer be met with simple measures.
In order to deal better with the memory problems in everyday life, memory aids can be used. For example, a small piece of paper on the bathroom mirror may remind you to take medicines. So that no tablet is taken twice, solid drugs can be filled into a weekly dispenser. Whether the person concerned can undertake this task himself or whether help by a second person is necessary depends on the individual case.
A weekly dispenser is a drug box with different compartments, each assigned to a day of the week. In memory problems, many sufferers are unsure whether they have already taken a tablet or not. However, if the appropriate tablet is missing in the dispenser, it is easy to see that it has already been taken. The independent use of a weekly dispenser or similar means, however, requires that the person concerned does not suffer from severe confusion and is aware, for example, which day of the week and which tablets he should take when.
Regular attention should also be paid to regular drinking and eating in Alzheimer's. Under certain circumstances, small reminders can suffice if the person concerned is still very fit in everyday life. Otherwise, it makes sense that relatives regularly remember drinking and eating.