Alzheimer’s disease is the most common of all the diseases that attack the nervous system (the second most common disease is Parkinson’s disease). There are many nerve fibers in the brain. In Alzheimer’s disease, these nerve fibers become tangled up. Also, plaques form in the brain. These plaques destroy the nerve endings in the brain. The plaques also destroy neurons and synapses. Neurons and synapses are needed for the brain to properly function. The tangled nerve fibers and the destroyed nerve endings, neurons, and synapses are what cause the many symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
There are three stages of Alzheimer’s disease: mild, moderate, and severe. In the mild stage, symptoms start with short term memory loss (the person with Alzheimer’s disease can remember events that happened many years ago, but cannot remember what happened a day or a few hours ago). The person in the mild stage of Alzheimer’s may be aware of these issues and try to correct them.
During the moderate state, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease get progressively worse over time. As the disease progresses, memory loss becomes worse and the person with Alzheimer’s disease has problems thinking clearly, managing their finances, and making good judgments. Speech, walking, and other problems also begin.
In the severe stage, a person with Alzheimer’s disease can no longer care for themselves and become bed bound. They may have problems swallowing, are unable to control their bowels and bladder, have total memory loss, and additional problems.
Alzheimer’s disease does shorten a person’s life span. Alzheimer’s disease is most common among people over the age 65; however, younger people can be affected. This form of Alzheimer’s disease is called Early Onset.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and the cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown. There are many medications and other therapies that help treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Additional resources that provide an overview of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Alzheimer’s disease – Overview (University of Maryland)
- Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s (Alzheimer’s Association)
- Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet (National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging)
- Alzheimer’s Disease (MedlinePlus)
- Alzheimer’s Myths (Alzheimer’s Association)
- Alzheimer’s Disease: Introduction (DrugDigest)