What Alzheimer’s Diseases? Symptoms And Causes
What Alzheimer’s Diseases? Symptoms And Causes.
Last week, there was seemingly groundbreaking news: Scientists had found a cause of Alzheimer and with it, a possible cure — of the disease.
The study that spurred last week’s headlines was published on Jan. 23 in the journal Science Advances. In this study, researchers suggested that Porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacteria that cause a common type of gum disease, may also play a role in Alzheimer’s. The researchers found that people with Alzheimer’s had these bacteria in their brains.
The majority of the study was conducted in mice, however. In those animals, the team showed that the bacteria were able to travel from the mouth to the brain, where they could inflict damage on brain cells and increase the production of the beta-amyloid proteins that cause the telltale plaques of Alzheimer’s. What’s more, the researchers found that they could stop this damage in mouse brains by targeting toxic enzymes produced by the bacteria.
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According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million Americans are currently living with AD. Every 65 seconds, another devastating diagnosis is made and by mid-century, the condition is expected to become even more common: Someone will learn they have AD every 33 seconds.
Although it’s known to affect adults 65 years and older, up to 5 percent of those diagnosed have early onset AD. This generally means that the person diagnosed is in their 40s or 50s.
It can be difficult to obtain a true diagnosis at this age because many symptoms may appear to be a result of typical life events such as stress.
In the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, abnormal buildup of proteins — called amyloid plaques and tau tangles — destroy brain cells slowly, the disease affects the brain, it can cause a decline in memory, reasoning, and thinking abilities. The decline is typically slow, but this can vary on a case-by-case basis.
What isn’t understood yet is what causes these plaques and tangles in the first place. Obesity? Head trauma? Silent strokes? High blood pressure? A family history of dementia? Advancing age? These are all considered risk factors for AD.
Thought Alzheimer’s damage is irreversible, and does not yet have a cure. Scientists worldwide have been working in high gear to find one, but most drugs that have reached clinical trials have failed. Still, studies are ongoing and researchers remain hopeful.
But scientists aren’t just trying to find a cure; they’re also trying to find the cause — or, more likely, the causes — of the disease.
What causes Alzheimer’s?
There are two forms of Alzheimer’s: early onset and late onset.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s typically affects people before age 65, with the symptoms usually showing up in a person’s 40s or 50s. This form of the disease is uncommon, affecting just 5 percent of all people with Alzheimer’s, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In most cases, scientists know exactly what causes early-onset Alzheimer’s: genetic mutations passed down through the family. Mutations in one of three genes — called APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2 — can cause a person to develop the early-onset form of the disease. In fact, a person needs to inherit only one of these genes from one parent for the disease to manifest.
Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease isn’t necessarily hereditary; in other words, even if a person’s parents both have the late-onset form of the disease, that person is not guaranteed to also get it, Patira said. Among her patients, “this is the most common misconception.”
What Does Cause Late-Onset Alzheimer’s?
Scientists don’t really know yet. Alzheimer’s is likely not simply the result of one cause, but rather a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors, according to medical research.
ApoE plays a role in how cholesterol moves through the blood, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some evidence suggests that people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol have an increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
Potential environmental causes include radiation, concussions, trauma and exposure to certain chemicals. But really, “any cause [you] can imagine, you will find a study about it in the literature.” “Everything is hot in Alzheimer’s research because people are really desperate” to find a cure.
But lately, scientists have increasingly turned their attention to microbes.
Symptoms Of Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?
Dementia is a general term for the loss of memory functions or other mental abilities that affect your daily life. You or a loved one may be developing early onset AD if you experience any of the following:
You or a loved one may begin to appear more forgetful than normal. Forgetting important dates or events can occur. If questions become repetitive and frequent reminders are required, you should see your doctor.
Difficulty planning and solving problems
AD may become more apparent if you or a loved one has difficulty developing and following a plan of action. Working with numbers may also become difficult.
This can often be seen when you or a family member begins to demonstrate problems maintaining monthly bills or a checkbook.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
Some people may experience a greater problem with concentration. Routine day-to-day tasks requiring critical thought may take longer as the disease progresses.
The ability to drive safely may also be called into question. If you or a loved one gets lost while driving a commonly traveled route, this may be a symptom of AD.
Difficulty determining time or place
Losing track of dates and misunderstanding the passage of time as it occurs are also two common symptoms. Planning for future events can become difficult since they aren’t immediately occurring.
As symptoms progress, people with AD can become increasingly forgetful about where they are, how they got there, or why they’re there.
Vision problems can also occur. This may be as simple as an increased difficulty in reading. You or a loved one may also begin to have problems judging distance and determining contrast or color when driving.
Difficulty finding the right words
Initiating or joining in on conversations may appear difficult. Conversations may randomly be paused in the middle, as you or a loved one may forget how to finish a sentence.
Because of this, repetitive conversations can occur. You may have difficulty finding the right words for specific items.
Misplacing items often
You or a loved one may begin putting items in unusual places. It may become more difficult to retrace the steps to find any lost items. This may lead you or a loved one to think that others are stealing.
Experiencing personality and mood changes
Extreme swings in mood and personality may occur. A noticeable change in moods may include:
You may notice that you or your loved one is increasingly irritated when something outside of a normal routine takes place.
The exact cause of early onset AD hasn’t been fully determined. Many researchers believe that this disease develops as the result of multiple factors rather than one specific cause.
Researchers have discovered rare genes that may directly cause or contribute to AD. These genes may be carried from one generation to the next within a family. Carrying this gene can result in adults younger than 65 years old developing symptoms much earlier than expected.
How is Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed?
Talk to a doctor if you or a loved one is finding it increasingly difficult to perform day-to-day tasks, or if you or a loved one is experiencing increased memory loss. They may refer you to a doctor who specializes in AD.
They’ll conduct a medical exam and a neurological exam to aid in the diagnosis. They may also choose to complete an imaging test of your brain. They can only make a diagnosis after the medical evaluation is completed.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s disease
There’s no cure for AD at this time. The symptoms of AD can sometimes be treated with medications meant to help improve memory loss or decrease sleeping difficulties. Research is still being done on possible alternative treatments.