There are seven identifiable Alzheimers stages. Its causes and the diagnosis will be discussed. Over 5 million Americans and over 26 million people worldwide suffer from the disease.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. An early diagnosis, as with most diseases, can be helpful and it can prolong independence. The disease develops slowly and gradually worsens over time.
It is estimated that 10 percent of the over 65 age group will develop Alzheimer's disease. Over one-half of those over 85 will have some form of the disease.
Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist, first described the disease in 1906. We now know that Alzheimer's disease results in a loss of neurons and synapses in the cerebral cortex and other regions of the brain. The brain subsequently atrophies just as an unused muscle atrophies.
All of the functions of the brain are eventually affected. Initially, memory loss and cognitive abilities are affected. Ultimately, there is no communication with the environment and loss of muscle control.
There is a difference. If you occasionally search for a name or a word, that is normal. If you substitute another word for the searched word, that could be an early sign of the disease.
If you forget the details of a conversation, that is not the same as not remembering the conversation. Forgetting to enter a check into the checkbook journal is different than not being able to manage a checkbook.
Occasionally making a wrong turn when driving is not the same as getting lost. Being sad is not the same as having huge mood swings. There is a difference.
In STAGE ONE there are no signs or symptoms of the disease. There is no outward sign of the changes occurring in the brain. Function and memory appear normal.
STAGE TWO may show some early signs of Alzheimer's disease. Locating objects and forgetting words may be noticed. There could also be uncharacteristic anger or irritability.
In STAGE THREE family, friends and co-workers are likely to notice changes such as difficulty with planning or organizing events. Confusion and disorientation are common. Obvious signs are forgetting a recent conversation or not remembering what was just read.
It is not uncommon for Alzheimer's patients in STAGE FOUR to not remember recent events or forget their own personal history. They may be withdrawn and moody. Increasing signs of confusion, forgetfulness, and poor judgment are apparent. At this stage a careful medical examination will detect the disease.
STAGE FIVE sufferers of Alzheimer's disease may recognize a person, but mis-catergorize them. For example, a niece could be mistaken for a daughter. There are obvious changes in behavior and personality such as outbursts of aggressive behavior and the development of unfounded suspicions.
These patients, yes patients, require help with day-to-day activities. They may be confused about where they are and what day it is. The gaps in their thinking and memory are noticeable.
In STAGE SIX of this progressive disease the memory problems and personality changes worsen. Recent experiences and even surroundings are no longer remembered. Faces are regarded as familiar (but, there is no name recognition) or unfamiliar.
This stage may see the emergence of violent or combative behavior, suspiciousness, and repetitive compulsive activities. These patients need help dressing and with toileting.
Some have difficulty controlling their bowel and bladder. Sleep patterns may change (day-time naps and restless nights). Wandering and getting lost is not uncommon.
STAGE SEVEN (Very Severe Cognitive Decline) results in a lack of conversation, inability to smile, and a general loss of interaction with their environment. Muscles may grow rigid and support may be necessary to sit up or hold one's head up. Swallowing and movement may be impaired.
The symptoms are slightly different for each patient, just as personalities are dissimilar. In addition, Alzheimers stages overlap. Some people may exhibit a few of the behaviors in STAGE FOUR and a few from STAGE FIVE.
The reason that the behavior varies from person to person is because not everyone's brain is affected exactly the same. Eventually, however, Alzheimer's disease will be fatal.