Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a degenerative disease of the brain. It is characterized by thinning of the brain surface and loss of brain cells, which gradually ceases a person’s ability to speak, express, or make decisions.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia (loss of memory and cognitive skills). People with Alzheimer's disease first develop memory loss. Sleeping excessively is a common feature of later-stage dementia. The reason for the excess sleepiness may be one of the following:
- As the disease progresses, the brain damage becomes more extensive, and the patient wants to just lie down.
- The muscle weakness brought on my brain cell death and reduced movements may make the person inactive.
- The side effects of the various medications Alzheimer’s patients take may cause sleepiness.
- The depression may often accompany the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, and this may manifest as increased sleeping.
- The general lethargy is seen in patients with Alzheimer’s due to reduced food intake.
As the disease progresses, memory loss worsens and problems with thinking, decision making, reasoning, language, or perception develop. Alzheimer's is a disease with no cure, but there are ways to stop or slow its progression with medications and other therapies. These can treat symptoms and improve the quality of life.
What are the stages of Alzheimer's disease?
The progression of Alzheimer’s disease is measured in seven stages:
- Stage I: No symptoms appear but early diagnosis is made based on family history.
- Stage II: Symptoms, such as absent-mindedness, appear.
- Stage III: Reduced memory and concentration appear.
- Stage IV: Memory loss with the inability to perform everyday tasks. Alzheimer’s is usually diagnosed at this stage and considered mild.
- Stage V: Moderate to severe symptoms appear.
- Stage VI: A person may need help with basic tasks, such as eating and wearing clothes.
- Stage VII: This is the final and severe stage of Alzheimer’s. Symptoms include:
- Severe memory loss, mood swings, and behavior changes
- Extreme confusion about time, place, and life events
- Trouble speaking or communicating
- Decreased physical functioning, such as walking, sitting, and swallowing
- Urinary and fecal incontinence
- Loss of facial expressions
- Suspicions about friends, family, or caregivers
What happens in Alzheimer’s disease?
Scientists believe that Alzheimer's disease may be caused by an abnormal buildup of proteins: beta-amyloid and tau. Beta-amyloid buildup forms plaques around brain cells. Tau deposits form twisted fibers called tangles within brain cells. As these proteins accumulate in and around the brain cells, the brain starts to lose its ability to function properly, this leads to loss of brain tissue, and eventually, the brain dies. The tissue damage also causes the affected parts of the brain to shrink.
Initially plaques and tangles damage parts of the brain that control memory, thought, and language. Later they spread and damage other parts of the brain.
What causes Alzheimer's disease?
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not known. However, several factors increase the risk of the disease.
The risk factors of Alzheimer’s include:
- Age: Risk increases with age, affecting 15% of people older than 65 years and 50% of people older than 85 years.
- Family history: Family member with the disease increases the risk. Inherited gene mutations also increase the probability of developing the disease.
- Gender: Women have a higher risk than men.
- Down syndrome
- Traumatic head injuries earlier in life
- Other risk factors include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- History of depression
- Sedentary lifestyle
What are the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a slowly progressive disease and symptoms gradually worsen over time, interfering with daily life.
Characteristic symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are:
- Persistent memory loss:
- Forgetting important dates or events
- Confusion and disorientation with places (getting lost)
- Confusion with date or time of the year
- Asking for the same information repeatedly
- Losing or misplacing things
- Vagueness in everyday conversation
- Cognitive decline:
- Changes in thinking skills
- Problems with decision-making, problem-solving, and planning
- Poor judgment
- Inability to process new information and questions
- Inability to follow instructions
- Difficulty performing daily tasks
- Difficulties with recognition:
- Confusion and inability to recognize faces, places, or objects
- Difficulties with language:
- Struggle in finding the right words or names of items, places, or people
- Difficulty in speaking, reading, or writing
- Difficulties with spatial awareness and visual images:
- Difficulty judging shapes and sizes
- Trouble with depth perception
- Trouble judging distances
- Vision problems
- Behavior or personality changes:
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior
- Deterioration of social skills
- Withdrawal from social activities or work
- Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities
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Lakhan SE. Alzheimer Disease. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1134817-overview
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Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
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Down SyndromeGet the facts on Down syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by an additional set of chromosomes in a developing fetus. Down syndrome signs and symptoms include distinctive facial features, growth retardation, and decreased mental function and IQ. Blood tests and ultrasound may be used to screen for Down syndrome but chromosome analysis of the fetus is needed to diagnose the condition. People with Down syndrome age more quickly and may develop Alzheimer's disease as young as age 40. Sometimes people are diagnosed with mosaic Down syndrome, in which case they have more than one type of chromosomal makeup.
doxylamineDoxylamine is an over-the-counter sedative medication used as an insomnia sleep aid and an antihistamine drug used for allergies, hay fever, the common cold, and pregnancy nausea and vomiting. Side effects may include rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), palpitations, upper abdominal pain (epigastric pain), diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite (anorexia), dry mouth (xerostomia), dryness of mucous membranes, painful urination (dysuria), urinary retention, headache, disorientation, drowsiness, dizziness, vertigo, paradoxical central nervous system (CNS) stimulation, blurred vision, and double vision (diplopia). Doxylamine is safe to use when pregnant. Use with caution while breastfeeding.
Edluar (zolpidem tartrate)Edluar is a prescription sleep medication used to treat insomnia (trouble falling asleep) in adults. Serious side effects of Edluar include getting out of bed while not being fully awake and doing an activity that you do not know you are doing, abnormal thoughts and behavior, memory loss, anxiety, and severe allergic reactions.
estazolamEstazolam is a medication used for short-term management of insomnia characterized by difficulty in falling asleep, frequent awakening in the night and/or waking up extremely early in the morning. Do not use estazolam in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Benzodiazepines, including estazolam have a high potential for abuse, misuse, and addiction. Common side effects of estazolam include drowsiness (somnolence), diminished body movement (hypokinesia), dizziness, abnormal coordination, nervousness, hangover, confusion, anxiety, depression, abnormal thinking, abnormal dreams, headache, weakness (asthenia), feeling unwell (malaise), lower extremity pain, and others.
melatoninMelatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain and is also a synthetic dietary supplement used to improve nighttime sleep in people with insomnia and treat other conditions such as jet lag, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, nicotine withdrawal, winter depression, prevention of cluster headache, migraine headache, cancer (as an adjunct therapy), and others. Common side effects of melatonin include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, abdominal cramps, disruption of circadian rhythm, daytime sleepiness the next day, daytime fatigue, irritability, transient depression, and feeling of unease (dysphoria) in depressed persons. Avoid use if pregnant or breastfeeding.
piracetamPiracetam is a nootropic medication (general cognitive enhancer) used to boost cognition and memory in conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and to treat myoclonus, a condition that causes brief muscle spasms and other neurological conditions. In the United States, piracetam is not approved by the FDA and is classified as a new unapproved drug. Common side effects of piracetam include hyperactivity and muscle spasm (hyperkinesia), drowsiness (somnolence), sleeplessness (insomnia), nervousness, depression, weakness and lack of energy (asthenia), weight gain, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and rash. Do not take piracetam if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
suvorexantSuvorexant is a sedative medication used to treat insomnia, characterized by difficulty in falling and/or staying asleep at night. Suvorexant promotes sleep by reducing arousal and wakefulness. Do not use suvorexant to treat patients with narcolepsy. Suvorexant can worsen depression and cause suicidal ideation. Common side effects of suvorexant include headache, drowsiness (somnolence), dizziness, abnormal dreams, upper respiratory tract infections, cough, diarrhea, and dry mouth. Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Why Do I Forget Things Easily?Forgetting things is quite common. You may forget things easily due to aging, Alzheimer's disease, stress, head injury, medications and other reasons.