Of fading memory and shifting behaviour

Despite being a well-researched and the most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease remains cureless; though early treatment could slow the pace of its progression

Of fading memory and shifting behaviour

Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia which is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. Dementia is a condition that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die. There is a continuous decline in thinking, and behavioural and social skills, that affects a person's ability to function independently.

September 21 each year is celebrated as a day to raise awareness about the challenges and the stigma around dementia. According to a 2013 study, the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease is 5-10

per cent in persons in their 70s, and 25 per cent for those aged 80 and over.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia and most well researched. It occurs due to incursion of beta amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in cholinergic neurons. The acetylcholine production of the affected neurons decreases. It presents not only as progressive memory loss but is also associated with behavioural symptoms. Its first signs can vary in different people.

Common symptoms

❋ Memory loss: This is one of the common signs but isn't present as a full-blown symptom overnight. The hallmark is that the person tends to forget recently learned information, for e.g., what they ate, where they went, and who they met recently. At times, a person may ask the same question many times over and become increasingly dependent on family members for tasks they used to do themselves earlier. What is often noted about this forgetfulness is that the individual denies forgetting and says they can remember everything.

❋ Difficulty in completing daily tasks like managing chores, eating, shopping and, at later stages, even smaller tasks like brushing and bathing.

❋ Challenges in planning or solving problems.

❋ Confusion with time and place.

❋ Trouble in understanding visual and spatial relationships of things that may lead to frequent dropping of things and injuries.

❋ Problems in speaking or writing: Forgetting words for common items like phone, watch, spoon etc.

❋ Misplacing things and inability to retrace; this leads to intense frustration or suspicion.

❋ Decreased or poor judgement at various occasions, for e.g., while crossing the road or speaking with someone.

❋ Social withdrawal.

❋ Changes in mood and personality from how someone was originally.

Common myths

Myth 1: Forgetting names / small things occasionally must mean I am getting Alzheimer's disease.

Fact: Minor slips in memory does not equate to dementia. Memory loss that affects and disrupts day-to-day life and forgetting recently learned new information is observed in AD.

Myth 2: All forgetfulness means Alzheimer's disease.

Fact: Memory loss can occur in a vast variety of conditions. In fact, there are a variety of dementia, for e.g., Parkinson's dementia, vascular, Lewy body dementia etc.

The more common causes of day-to-day forgetfulness in youngsters and individuals are: Digital dementia, anxiety, ADHD, inattention, and constant distraction. Remember, common things are common.

Digital dementia, Anxiety, ADHD, Inattention, and constant Distraction. Remember, common things are common.

Myth 3: There is a cure for Alzheimer's disease.

Fact: This is one of the most widely researched dementia but so far unfortunately there is no cure. There are methods and medications to delay the progress of this progressive disease.

Starting treatment early on is imperative. A neurologist, geriatric specialist or a neuropsychiatrist can help.

Updates in research

The DSM-5 has categorized the severity into major or mild neurocognitive disorder due to AD, based on the symptoms and difficulty in functioning.

Movies to watch

Black, Still Alice, The Notebook, Aurora Borealis, Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch.

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