What is alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, responsible for just over half of the 670,000 cases in the UK.

Symptoms:

Typically Alzheimer’s disease begins with lapses of memory, difficulty in finding the right words for everyday objects or mood swings. Mild symptoms may be a natural effect of ageing, but in Alzheimer’s disease a pattern of problems emerges over six months or more.

As it progresses the person may:

~Routinely forget recent events, appointments, names and faces and have difficulty in understanding what is being said.
~Become confused when handling money, driving a car or using a washing machine
undergo personality changes, appearing no longer to care about those around them, and becoming irritable or apathetic.
~Suffer mood swings and burst into tears for no apparent reason, or become convinced that someone is trying to harm them.

In advanced cases people may also:

~Adopt unsettling behaviour, like getting up in the middle of the night, or wandering off from their home and becoming lost.
~Lose their inhibitions and sense of suitable behaviour, undressing in public or making inappropriate sexual advances.
~Finally, the personality disintegrates and the person becomes totally dependent or bed-bound. Relatives have described this experience as like living with a stranger.

What causes these symptoms?

Alzheimer’s is a physical disease which attacks brain cells (where we store memory) and brain nerves and transmitters (which carry instructions around the brain) . The ability to remember, speak, think and make decisions is disrupted.

What causes alzheimer’s disease?

The short answer is we don’t know. It may be a combination of factors, some we are born with, some in our environment and some which happen to us. Things that make Alzheimer’s disease more likely are called ‘risk factors’. They include:

Age:

The greatest risk factor is increasing age.
Below the age of 65 dementia affects one person in 1,000
Over the age of 65 it affects four to five in 100
By the age of 80 it affects one person in five.
Although the risk continues to rise, a majority of 90-year-olds are still unaffected.

A family condition:

Some people are born at risk because of the genes they inherit.


Early onset:

About 17,000 people in the UK are affected below the age of 65, sometimes as young as 35 years old. Alzheimer’s disease in younger people often progresses more rapidly. A number of rare genetic faults make the disease more likely at a young age. Some people with a strong family history of Alzheimer’s seek genetic counselling – to discuss whether they should have a test to see if they have inherited a faulty gene.

Late onset:

A gene is also associated with Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Other possible causes:

Some toxic chemicals put people at risk of Parkinson’s disease. This has led to a search for a chemical link to Alzheimer’s.
There is no evidence of risk from aluminium saucepans or from drinking tea, which has traces of aluminium.

Information Courtesy of:
Alzheimer’s Disease Society
Gordon House
10 Greencoat Place
London SW1P 1PH
Tel:0845 300 0336

Registered Charity No. 296645
Company Limited by Guarantee
Registered in England No. 2115499

For Further information visit the website
www.alzheimers.org.uk

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