In Alzheimer's, parts of the brain begin to weaken. Certain cells are destroyed and others that help send signals to the brain become less effective. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia refers to a general loss of the use of the brain, including memory, judgment, language and abstract thinking. Sometimes the Alzheimer's patient also suffers personality changes.
Symptoms may be subtle at first. Patients may experience depression, anxiety and fears and forget recent events. Sometimes patients struggle to find the words they want and fall back on using simple words. Driving becomes a hazard when signals can't be interpreted correctly. As the disease progresses, patients become less and less able to go about their daily lives safely.
Causes and Risk Factors
The causes of Alzheimer's disease are still under investigation. There are some signs that it may be passed through families genetically. Alzheimer's disease can have environmental and genetic causes.
In most cases, doctors can correctly diagnose the disease with an examination. However, the diagnosis can only be proven by examining the brain during an autopsy. Spinal fluid tests and positron emission tomography (PET) brain scans are being tested as a way of diagnosing Alzheimer's disease, but these tests have not yet been proven reliable.
Alzheimer's disease is incurable. Certain drugs, which are most effective during the early stages of the condition, help people with the disease.