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Dementia is the name for many diseases which affect memory loss, problem solving, thinking and language.  Alzheimer’s disease is one of these diseases.  It was named after Alois Alzheimer, the doctor who first defined it.

In Alzheimer’s disease the connections between the billions of nerve cells in the brain are lost.  Proteins build up and form abnormal structures known as plaques.  Because of these, nerve cells die and brain tissue is lost.

People with Alzheimer’s also have less chemical messengers in the brain so signals are not passed on properly.  Symptoms can sometimes be helped by treatment with drugs which increases the levels of these chemicals.

Over 520,000 people in the UK have Alzheimer’s disease.  The disease is progressive meaning that over time more of the brain will be affected and symptoms will increase and get worse.  The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to rise.

What Are The Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Most people notice they are having difficult recalling recent events and learning new information.  Early damage to the brain with Alzheimer’s usually occurs in the part of the brain called the hippocampus.  This has a role in short term memory.  Long term memory is not usually affected at this point.  Memory loss due to Alzheimer’s usually starts to affect everyday life once it progresses.  You might start to lose things around the home or struggle to remember recent conversations.  Another symptom is getting lost on a familiar journey or having difficulty following a conversation or repeating themselves.

Someone with early stage Alzheimer’s will often have mood swings and may become anxious or depressed.  Some lose interest in their hobbies and become withdrawn.

What Happens In The Later Stages of Alzheimer’s

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses problems with memory loss, communication and orientation become worse.  They may start to have delusions and sometimes hallucinations.  A person with Alzheimer’s disease may start to get agitated or even react aggressively which can be distressing for their family and carers.

As the disease progresses someone may be less aware of their surroundings and what is going on around them.  Eventually they will become frail and unable to walk and eat without help. 

On average a person with Alzheimer’s disease will live for eight to ten years after first developing symptoms.  This will depend on how old they were when diagnosed.

Everyone is different and not all symptoms will be experienced by everyone with Alzheimer’s disease.  The disease may progress in a different way or slower or faster.  Your doctor or specialist  will be able to advise you better.

For more information on Alzheimer’s disease you can have a look at Alzheimer’s Society website at https://www.alzheimers.org.uk

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