Step by step, the gradual brain changes of Alzheimer's disease cause irreversible damage. It's one of the most challenging disorders of modern medicine and can be heartbreaking for families dealing with its repercussions. Understanding the basics can help you come to terms with this diagnosis.
What is Alzheimer's? Alzheimer's is a form of brain damage that most commonly affects older adults. But it's not a normal part of aging. Little progressive changes in the structure of the brain cause cells to wither and die. Over time, these changes lead to dramatic brain shrinkage and eventually death. The Alzheimer’s Association Research Center states that Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 50 to 80 percent of all cases of dementia.
Who can get it? Anyone can get Alzheimer's disease, although it's most often seen in older adults. Early-onset Alzheimer's disease is classified as the onset of the symptoms before age 65, according to the Mayo Clinic.
First signs of Alzheimer's disease. The disease presents itself differently in each individual, though there are commonalities. The first brain changes occur in the learning centers of the brain. Recent events and memories may become difficult to retain and recall.
Advancement of Alzheimer's disease. As the brain changes continue, symptoms gradually advance and become increasingly severe. Mood changes, disorientation and confusion set in. Behavior alters to unfamiliar patterns that devastate the individual and his or her loved ones. A person with Alzheimer's may suddenly feel suspicious about the people around him or her. The brain cell damage continues, eventually causing severe memory loss and difficulty speaking, walking and even swallowing.
Coping with Alzheimer's disease. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, it may be comforting to know that you're not alone. While there's no cure, research is ongoing, and there are more resources available now than ever before. Education is crucial in the management of the symptoms and stresses associated with Alzheimer's.