Alzheimer’s disease is a painful condition to be in and to witness someone suffering with it. It is not really the physical pain, but the mental and emotional agony associated with the disease that can be painful to deal with.
Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia is known for having worst symptoms of memory loss. The loss of memory is so severe that there are times that the patient could even forget his or her own family members. It can be emotionally burning out even for the relatives living with the patient to deal with this every day.
Doctors and medical researchers do not have adequate information on why the early onset of the disease occurs but the genetic factor is known as one of the causes.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
A disease that accounts for almost 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases is a severe neurodegenerative disease that gradually progresses making the symptoms worse as it grows.
While the symptoms at the beginning may seem mild, they eventually get the better of the person making him dependent and socially withdrawn. Ultimately as one loses the body functions, it results in death which again can be slow and painful.
Although not much is known about the cause of the disease, there seem to be a number of factors leading to the disease including genetic and age factors.
Breaking the Myths around Alzheimer’s Disease
Although Alzheimer’s is a very common disease, the information people have about this disease is at a very superficial level. There are a number of misconceptions and false beliefs around the disease that can hamper the quality of life one leads. Awareness about the disease is extremely critical to help patients lead a good quality of life as far as possible.
Here are some of the most common myths people have about the disease. Let us help you understand how these misconceptions are not really relevant in context with the disease:
- Loss of memory is normal as you grow older: Forgetfulness and absentmindedness are very common as you grow older. However, Alzheimer’s is beyond just normal forgetfulness. Alzheimer’s causes occasional and frequent episodes of loss of memory. The disease leads to a malfunction in the brain cells and ultimately causes them to die. As this happens the memory power, retention capacity all dies and as a result, an individual is unable to remember recent and old information leading to memory loss.
- Alzheimer’s disease cannot cause death: Although the death will be slow, it is inevitable in the case of an Alzheimer’s patient. There isn’t anyone who can survive from this disease. As the brain cells get destroyed slowly due to the progression of the disease, it causes memory changes, behavioral changes and loss of bodily functions. Slowly the disease causes one to even forget his identity, ability to communicate, and perform even basic functions like talking, walking, thinking and so on leading one to become completely dependent on others.
- Alzheimer’s is only a disease of the old: While Alzheimer’s as a disease is commonly seen among aged people, it has another phenomenon that is known as younger-onset wherein the disease can affect people in their 30s, 40s and even 50s. Around 5million people are living with the disease in the US alone, of which while the major population is above 65 years there are about 2 lacs people who suffer from the younger -onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Aluminum exposure can lead to Alzheimer’s: In the 1960 and ’70s, researchers doubted aluminum to be a factor associated with the Alzheimer’s disease. People believed consuming out of aluminum plates or cooking in aluminum pans could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, as the studies progressed, there was no significant connection found between the two. Research is now being conducted on finding other causes of the disease and very few still find aluminum to be a reason behind Alzheimer’s disease.
- Aspartame can lead to memory loss: Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is an important ingredient of various artificial sweeteners. Since the time aspartame was sold in various artificial sweeteners like Equal and NutraSweet, there have been some questions raised about aspartame leading to memory loss. However, no such strong evidence has been found and research has concluded aspartame to be safe for consumption.
Symptoms that can tell if you Have Alzheimer’s
Memory loss is a basic sign that can help you identify Alzheimer’s. However, that is just one sign of the disease. Apart from the loss of memory, there are other definitive signs and symptoms that can help in identifying the disease. Some of these signs include:
- Loss of Memory: The first sign of Alzheimer’s that is seen as the disease starts to set in. This sign is seen in most of the Alzheimer’s patients where one experiences memory loss, particularly not remembering recently learned information. Apart from this one can also forget important dates or events, and may ask for the same information repeatedly. Memory aids like reminder notes and electronic aids are used by the patient to remember information or they may rely on their family member for information.
- Unable to plan or solve problems: Some people due to Alzheimer’s could experience changes in the way they plan and work with the number or other processes. Simple things like following a recipe may seem challenging as the mind is unable to follow a method or a structure. They are unable to focus and concentrate on things for long.
- Challenges in completing everyday routine tasks: Patients living with Alzheimer’s disease find it challenging to complete everyday tasks. In some cases, patients are even unable to find the way to their home or drive in known places.
- Speech and writing problems: Persons suffering from Alzheimer’s disease may have difficulty in communicating as they are unable to follow or join in conversations. They could suddenly withdraw from conversations as in the middle of a conversation they may have no idea how to continue. They also tend to repeat themselves often. Vocabulary could become a problem as they continue searching for the right words or may refer to objects or people by wrong names.
- Becoming isolated or aloof: People suffering from Alzheimer’s tend to isolate themselves from others. They are not interested in hobbies, social activities, work or sports. They may not even remember how to do a task involving their favorite hobby also. The forgetfulness may tend to have them withdraw from social circles.
The difference in Ageing Symptoms and Alzheimer’s Symptoms
Alzheimer’s is often misunderstood as a problem of the aged. Often people confuse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s to be aging symptoms and hence may not treat it as a condition requiring medical attention. Following are certain distinctions between the two conditions i.e., Alzheimer’s and Ageing:
- Judgment: An Alzheimer’s patient may face poor judgment and decision making problems like unable to park. While in the normal aging process people may make certain bad judgments off and on.
- Managing processes like budgets: People suffering from Alzheimer’s find it difficult to manage processes like keeping tab of budgets as their mind lacks concentration and focus. However, in the case of old people they may forget making a payment or after making the payment may forget if they have paid or not. This is normal since it’s occasional.
- Forgetting dates: An Alzheimer’s patient completely forgets the dates or seasons while old people may miss certain dates or events but can later remember them.
- Communication: Alzheimer’s disease patients are unable to have a conversation since in the middle of the conversation they can lose the link between what they were saying or what someone else was saying. However, in the case of old people, they may just forget a word or two in between a conversation.
- Misplacing things: Alzheimer’s patients tend to keep usual everyday objects in different places and can often forget where they kept them as they would place them in unusual places. Old people can due to general forgetfulness tend to keep things here and there and misplace them
Understanding the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease
Early onset of Alzheimer’s affects people below the age of 65 years and is normally diagnosed between the ages of 40 to 50 years. This form of Alzheimer’s disease can be very unfortunate and painful since this is the peak age when they have responsibilities of their own. At this point to be diagnosed with a disease that has no cure and only worsens with time can come as an emotional shock to the patient and family members.
Misdiagnosis a Risk: Younger onset of the Alzheimer’s is not a very common condition and when discussing medical history, most medical practitioners would not take this route during a diagnosis at all.
Symptoms are often misinterpreted to be stress or other medical condition. People with early onset of the disease may be in any stage of the disease i.e. early, middle or late; and not getting the root of the symptoms can be a long process and very frustrating too.
Due to the genetic factors, one can start facing symptoms anywhere between 30-50 as the genes causing Alzheimer’s gets triggered.
Alzheimer’s is a disease and it needs medical attention. This is a fact that cannot be denied. Yes, Alzheimer’s can cause one’s quality of life to suffer too with love care and intelligent management; one can improve their lives even when living with the disease.
Matt Bailey is a noted writer, content marketer, and Social Strategist at FindaTopDoc. Find the best Local Doctor by Specialty and Insurance.