patients with Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 1 million people in Brazil, according to the Ministry of Health. Neurodegenerative, the disease is the most common type of dementia, a generic term used by medicine to identify cognitive diseases that happen mainly in old age.
patients with Alzheimer’s Disease
“Alzheimer’s is increasingly incident in the population due to greater life expectancy, but it involves stigmas and lack of knowledge, which is why it is important to demystify concepts”, warns Dr. Marcelo Valadares, functional neurosurgeon at Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein (SP) and chief physician of the Functional Neurosurgery area of the Discipline of Neurosurgery at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp).
One of the challenges of Alzheimer’s is understanding what exactly happens in the patient’s brain. It is believed that there is an accumulation of Beta-amyloid and Tau proteins, responsible for inflammation, disorganization and destruction of brain cells, mainly in regions such as the hippocampus and other areas of the cortex.
What science is sure of is that the disease manifests itself mainly after the age of 65, and leads to the loss of cognitive functions (memory, orientation, attention and language), changes in behavior and even psychiatric disorders, such as depression and hallucination pictures.
Alzheimer’s disease progresses in stages. Initially, the patient has mild symptoms that are mistaken for other conditions, which often leads to late diagnosis. In a second moment, the memory flaws become evident. However, as the disease progresses, there is a significant impairment of numerous physiological functions, such as difficulty controlling urine, swallowing food, and other restrictions”, clarifies the specialist.
To help society understand the disease, Dr. Marcelo Valadares listed facts about Alzheimer’s that are essential for anyone who lives with someone known to have the disease.
Not all dementia is Alzheimer’s
According to the doctor, this is the biggest doubt among people: dementia is associated exclusively with Alzheimer’s. “There is no disease called ‘dementia’: when they say that someone has dementia, in fact, there is still no correct diagnosis”, he reiterates. Dementia is the name given to the set of changes and losses of memory, intelligence, cognition, reasoning, ability to communicate and relate, personality and skills. ”, He explains.
How to diagnose Alzheimer’s?
In addition to a thorough clinical analysis by a neurologist, which includes an interview with the patient and caregiver, in addition to cognitive tests, there are tests that identify biomarkers and imaging tests for the diagnosis of the disease, such as MRI and cerebral perfusion scintigraphy. “A cognitive exam may show impairments in ability, but it is not diagnostically decisive. In order to identify this disease, it is necessary that imaging tests are requested correctly”, warns the neurosurgeon.
Why is early diagnosis important?
With early identification of Alzheimer’s, the doctor can start treatment as soon as possible and employ resources to help stimulate the affected brain area. Although it is still not possible to prevent the progression of the disease, early treatment means improvements in the patient’s quality of life and well-being. And, for that, the role of the family member or the people who live with the patient is also essential. After all, it is the other who will identify changes in behavior in the elderly. The list of manifestations of this disease includes symptoms such as memory loss, behavioral changes and language dysfunction.
Do any drugs cure Alzheimer’s?
Today the disease still has no cure, but there is an accelerated race in the industry in search of an effective treatment. Clinical research in the area brings drugs that act mainly on the proteins seen as causing Alzheimer’s, but there is still an arduous path of studies ahead. Some studies even indicated a reduction in cognitive loss in the analyzed patients, but they also brought unwanted and sometimes serious side effects. But today there are options that help to better control this disease and multidisciplinary treatment with different health professionals. The important thing is to seek medical help.
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patients with Alzheimer’s Disease