Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment

Alzheimer’s disease stands as a prominent contributor to profound cognitive deterioration in the elderly. The principal cognitive impairments manifest prominently in areas such as working memory, language skills, executive functions, attention span, and long-term memory.

Alzheimer’s disease is marked by a gradual decline in cognitive and overall functioning. In its early stages, intricate behaviors such as driving may be compromised, accompanied by challenges in short-term memory. Behavioral issues like anger or aggressiveness may also surface. As the disease progresses, dementia, a characteristic symptom not exclusive to Alzheimer’s but prevalent in various chronic brain conditions, may develop. Dementia is a neurological condition characterized by impairments in memory, understanding, rational thought, language skills, orientation, emotional control, and judgment.

In advanced stages, individuals with dementia lose the capacity to perform fundamental tasks like communication, using facilities, eating, and sleeping. Severe memory impairment becomes evident to the extent that patients may struggle to recall their own name and identity. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is on the rise alongside increased life expectancy in the Western world.

While the cause of Alzheimer’s remains unknown, certain factors elevate the risk for individuals. Age is a significant factor, with the disease being more common among the elderly, especially those aged 85 and older. Other potential contributors include vitamin B12 deficiency (e.g., in vegetarians), alcoholism, brain tumors, family history of the disease, and gender, with women at a higher risk, possibly due to their longer life expectancy. Research suggests that education provides a degree of protection against Alzheimer’s disease.

From the initial diagnosis, the average time until death is approximately 10 years. The progression of the disease is monitored using the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), which evaluates dementia through a series of daily questions (e.g., naming the day of the week or the time of day). The MMSE has a maximum score of 30 points, with a healthy individual averaging 29 points. On average, the MMSE score of an Alzheimer’s patient decreases by three points each year.

Conventional Treatments

The only FDA-approved treatments for Alzheimer’s involve medications designed to inhibit the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The cells most impacted in the early stages of the disease are those responsible for secreting acetylcholine. These medications demonstrate the ability to slow or halt the progression of the disease in approximately one third of patients. However, they come with side effects, including nausea, vomiting, mild muscle cramps, and sleep disturbances.

A significant challenge in treating Alzheimer’s lies in its delayed diagnosis, typically occurring when 70% of the patient’s brain cells have already suffered damage. The lateness of diagnosis stems from the fact that normal functioning can persist even with extensive neural damage. Consequently, affected individuals and their surroundings often fail to recognize the existence of a problem. There is a potential for currently available drugs to exhibit greater effectiveness if the disease could be identified at an earlier stage.

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