Alzheimers is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 70% of all dementia cases. It is a degenerative brain disorder that causes a gradual deterioration of memory and thinking. Symptoms include memory loss, language and behaviour problems. It is more common in older people and more common in women.
People with Alzheimer’s have a progressive memory decline and may have mild to severe cognitive impairment. Alzheimer’s usually affects those aged 60 or older. There are no approved drugs to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s, but new studies investigate therapies that may prevent the disease, particularly in the earlier stages. There are also studies to look at ways to slow the progression of the disease.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s generally start in the 40s or 50s. In the beginning, you may notice that you’re becoming more forgetful, and you might have problems with tasks such as getting out of bed or tying your shoelaces. There is a period of the “prodromal” stage, where the early symptoms are not yet obvious. For example, you may begin to have problems with memory, or your memory might feel like it is being impaired, but you don’t think much of it because you still have a reasonable level of functioning in other areas of life. As the disease progresses, people who have been in this phase will have many other problems, including problems with speech, walking, and balance.
People with Alzheimer’s may also have the following symptoms:
- Difficulty with decision making Depression
- Difficulty with speech
- Inability to concentrate
- Inability to manage money
- Inability to recognise faces
- Inability to control bowel and bladder functions
- Inability to handle medications
- Poor appetite
- Physical ailments
- Physical pain
- Poor physical coordination
- Struggling with activities of daily living (ADL)
What are the 5 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease?
The symptoms can cause a lot of stress, frustration, and loss of independence. However, people with Alzheimer’s can often handle these problems and live a relatively normal life. Affecting more than 50 million people worldwide, Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. It is not reversible.
There are no approved drugs to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s. But new studies are investigating therapies that may prevent the disease, particularly in the earlier stages. There are also studies to look at ways to slow the progression of the disease.
As the symptoms progress, treatment options include:
- Psychiatric and psychological therapies
- Nurse-led education programmes
- Assisted eating Nursing care
- Nutritional supplements
There are no approved drugs to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s. However, people taking them are at less risk of Alzheimer’s.
What are the 4 Stages of Alzheimer?
In 2017, there were more than 4.8 million people with Alzheimer’s. It is expected to increase to 8.7 million by 2030 and 13.8 million by 2055. At present, one in four people with Alzheimer’s dementia has one of several types of amyloid accumulation (including Lewy bodies) associated with cognitive impairment.
Suppose you have an underlying or secondary cause of cognitive impairment (such as head trauma, a history of Depression or neurodegenerative disease, or medications that affect the brain). In that case, these may make you more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
The earlier Alzheimer’s is identified and treated, the better the outcome. There are options to look into earlier in the disease process. “Prodromal” or “preclinical” forms People with this stage of Alzheimer’s usually have no symptoms. It is the stage before the onset of the first clinical symptoms. This phase is characterized by memory and thinking impairments that are not severe enough to cause disability. There is currently no approved drug for this stage of the disease.
However, researchers are currently investigating treatments such as anti-oxidants (nutrients that may help to protect brain cells), statins, and antidepressants. “Mild cognitive impairment” (MCI) People with MCI usually have no symptoms. They can perform day-to-day activities like working, managing finances, or shopping. However, they do not live independently. Most people will recover from MCI. With careful support, most people with MCI will be able to live independently for several years after diagnosis.
It is important to seek out the earliest symptoms of MCI. If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s, you may be at risk of developing MCI. Also, it is important to seek out symptoms of MCI so you can take steps to delay or prevent the disease. A blood test called the Alzheimer’s blood test (Alz-Screen) can help to detect MCI. This is not currently available in all countries.
Mild cognitive impairment can be followed by other stages of Alzheimer’s, such as moderate cognitive impairment, moderate Alzheimer’s dementia, and severe cognitive impairment.
There are no approved drugs for Alzheimer’s, although several drugs have been tested in clinical trials. The two currently approved treatments for Alzheimer’s are: Nuraphos (NuPhenytoin) Nuraphos (also known as Phenytoin) may be effective for some people with Alzheimer’s.
Nuraphos is a drug that prevents the breakdown of neurotransmitters, which help to make brain cells work. The main types of neurotransmitters in the brain are acetylcholine and dopamine. It is not known whether this treatment is helpful to people with Alzheimer’s.
Two studies found that the use of Nuraphos in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s was effective in improving memory and language skills. However, there is not enough evidence to say if it is helpful for people who have more severe Alzheimer’s.
Other Drug Trials
Other drugs that are being investigated for Alzheimer’s are:
Brimonidine is an anti-glaucoma medication that is being studied for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. Brimonidine has been found to slow the breakdown of neurotransmitters in the brain. However, it does not seem to improve brain function.
Hirulog is a drug that is being investigated for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. It is used to reduce blood pressure. One study has found that hirulog slowed the rate at which amyloid was found in the brain.
Eliglustat is a drug being investigated for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. It is a treatment for a rare condition called Gaucher’s disease. This condition involves build-up of lipid in the brain. Studies are underway to find out if this drug can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
A number of studies have been completed that found that cholinesterase inhibitors are helpful in slowing Alzheimer’s. There is not enough evidence to say whether cholinesterase inhibitors are useful in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s in people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s.
Research shows that lithium may slow the rate at which amyloid and tau (a brain protein associated with Alzheimer’s) build up in the brain. Some studies found that lithium helped to protect against the development of Alzheimer’s in people with mild cognitive impairment.
A number of other drugs have been studied in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s. However, there is not enough evidence to know if they effectively slow or prevent Alzheimer’s.
These include Nilotinib Alzheimer’s drugs. These are new discoveries in clinical trials to see if they are useful for treating Alzheimer’s. There are many drugs being developed to target different aspects of the disease, such as improving the movement of proteins through the brain, or protecting brain cells.
Clinical trials are ongoing and the results may take years to appear. These drugs are still in the research stages. There are many different causes of Alzheimer’s, so people who have Alzheimer’s are often on multiple types of medication.
Alzheimer’s can also be a consequence of a number of other factors, such as head trauma, a history of Depression or other brain diseases, or medication side effects. These may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
What Can You Do?
If you have mild cognitive impairment or you know that you are likely to develop Alzheimer’s in the future, it is important that you discuss this with your doctor. Some treatment options are available, and some are still being tested. While there are no proven treatments for Alzheimer’s, there are therapies and lifestyle changes that can help to manage the disease.
Dietary changes can have a positive effect on the progression of Alzheimer’s, by helping to reduce the amount of amyloid and tau build up in the brain. Studies are ongoing to try and prevent the development of Alzheimer’s, and there are ongoing investigations into the cause and symptoms of the disease.
There are many risk factors that can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s, including a history of Depression, diabetes, and stroke. You may want to contact a healthcare professional for more information or support. The information in this article is not a substitute for the advice of your doctor. Before starting any new treatments, you should check with your doctor.
Alzheimer’s Foundation is dedicated to leading the way in the research, advocacy and care of people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, with a focus on early detection and community engagement.