Alzheimer's disease is an incurable neurodegenerative disease that causes lesions in the brain. It evolves over time in several stages, and its main symptoms are memory loss and dementia.
Definition of Alzheimer's Disease
The causes of the disease are not yet known, but knowledge of it has improved significantly in recent years. Two types of lesions in the brain - degeneration and inflammation of the brain - have been identified. Several risk factors come into play, such as aging and genetic inheritance.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in men. It represents 65% of cases, and mainly affects the elderly.
Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease: An Evolution in Multiple Stages
Alzheimer's disease grows strongly over time. Even if the evolution is unique to each patient, it can nevertheless be divided into several distinct stages. Once the disease is diagnosed, life expectancy is estimated to be between 8 and 12 years.
- Mild stage:
The first symptoms begin to appear. At this stage, they mainly consist of cognitive disorders such as memory loss, especially in the short term. The frequently involves forgetting recently learned information, or an important date. It is thus common for the patient to ask the same question several times.
- Moderate stage:
The memory continues to deteriorate and the patient gradually loses their autonomy. They have difficulty making choices, coordination problems, difficulties performing daily tasks, and sudden changes in mood. It is at this stage that care becomes frequent.
- Severe stage:
The patient enters the terminal phase and becomes fully dependent. It is at this stage that Alzheimer's disease becomes fatal. Cause of death is usually due to an external factor, such as pneumonia.
Diagnosis: What Tests Exist for Alzheimer's disease?
More than 47 million people suffer from dementia worldwide. Alzheimer's disease is responsible for 60-70% of these cases. Unfortunately, only a third of patients receive treatment. Even today, the disease is still very difficult to diagnose.
Neuropsychological tests are the best tool to use to uncover deficits in the cognitive faculties of patients. These test mental functions, writing, orientation, and vision. The doctor may also decide to perform biological examinations from blood tests or urine. This eliminates the possibility that the symptoms detected are due to another pathology such as anemia, diabetes, or stroke.
Alzheimer's disease is often diagnosed too late. Much research is underway to find tests that can be used to detect the disease at an early stage, when degeneration is not too pronounced.
Treatment for Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease is incurable and the cognitive decline that it causes cannot be reversed. However, there are drugs that exist that can slow down its progression and reduce symptoms. These include anticholinesterase inhibitors (during the mild stage) and antiglutamates (during the moderate and severe stage).
The effectiveness of the treatment can only be evaluated after 3 to 6 months, and will differ from one patient to another. It is therefore very hard to find treatment that corresponds to each patient. Physicians also believe that in addition to medications, physical exercise, cognitive stimulation, and a balanced diet can delay the progression of the disease.