What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that causes memory, thinking and behavior disorders. Gradually, destruction of nerve cells occurs in brain regions that are related to memory and language. Alzheimer’s disease is usually associated with memory loss because it is the neurons located in the region of the hippocampus, the seat of memory, that are the first to be affected by the disease.

Gradually, the person with Alzheimer’s has more and more trouble remembering events, recognizing objects and people, remembering the meaning of words. Alzheimer’s is a slowly evolving disease whose symptoms progressively worsen over time. In the early years, memory loss is mild, but later, patients lose their ability to hold a conversation and respond to their environment. It is the most common cause of dementia in humans, it accounts for 50 to 80% of cases of dementia. The peculiarity of Alzheimer’s disease lies in the fact that it evolves slowly and that it mainly affects the short-term memory, in its beginnings.

Many people think that Alzheimer’s is a normal process of aging: It’s not true. It is a disease in its own right. Although it is much more common in the elderly, it can be seen that it sometimes affects individuals aged 40 to 50 years (3% of cases).

Causes of Alzheimer’s disease

To date, the causes of Alzheimer’s disease are not clearly identified. In the vast majority of cases (99%) of Alzheimer’s disease, the cause is unknown, presumably because there is not a single cause but several factors involved (age, environment, cardiovascular risk, genetic risk …). Age is the main risk factor with a prevalence that is multiplied by 2 every 5 years from age 65 (2% after age 65, 4% after age 70, 15% after age 80). Also, an unbalanced diet, lack of stimulating physical and intellectual activity increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

However, in 1% of cases of Alzheimer’s disease, causes are identified because the disease is caused by the presence of mutations on identified genes. These cases are very rare and are an exception. In these cases, when a family member is affected by the disease, it doubles or even triples the risk of developing the disease for the rest of the family. That’s why whole families of people have Alzheimer’s disease.


The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Loss of memory hindering the quotient is not part of the normal aging process. It could be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Indeed, Alzheimer’s disease often starts with memory problems. If you or someone around you or yourself has memory problems, be careful. Seek immediate medical attention to determine the cause. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are:

Loss of memory that impede the daily activities of the person: This is the first and the main symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. It may be important to forget important dates, the names of people we meet daily, to ask the same information several times, etc ….

Loss of Orientation (Time and Place): It often happens that a person who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease forgets where she is and how she got there. She does not even know how to get home.

 –Difficult to perform familiar tasks: The person with Alzheimer’s disease may have difficulty performing daily tasks that she has done throughout her life, such as tidying up her room or even remembering the rules of her favorite game . This serious stage ends with the death of the sick person, not because of the disease, but as a result of other complications such as infection, cardiac arrest or undernutrition.

Lower judgment: People with Alzheimer’s disease may experience changes in their judgment or ability to make the right decisions. For example, he can turn on air conditioning when it is very cold or spend all his money in trivia when he was not used to it.

Misplaced objects: People with Alzheimer’s disease sometimes store their items in unusual places and do not even remember them (a phone in an oven, a watch in a washing machine). They are subsequently unable to find them.

Sudden changes in mood and personality: The sick person can suddenly become aggressive while she has always been someone calm, or conversely become nonchalant while he was a very active person. These character traits changes are very similar to those following depression.

Disabilities to express yourself: The person with Alzheimer’s disease sometimes has difficulty finding his words. This aphasia can cause a progressive loss of speech.

The diagnosis

Even if, to date, Alzheimer’s disease is incurable, it can considerably slow down its progression. It is therefore essential that the diagnosis be made quickly to put into practice the appropriate management of the disease. All studies prove a quick and accurate diagnosis allows the patient to keep a social fabric and slows the progression of the disease. Also it allows his entourage to take all the necessary precautions.

To establish the diagnosis of the disease, the general practitioner will refer the patient to a memory center specializing in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is usually not made at the first consultation in a specialized center. Doctors are aware that diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease means changing everything in the life of the patient and those around him. They will therefore be careful to establish a certain diagnosis that leaves no room for doubt before informing you of anything.

There are several things that allow doctors to confirm or deny if the patient has Alzheimer’s. First, they will begin with an oral examination of the patient and his entourage (forgetfulness, nature of forgetfulness, the relationship to time, changes in lifestyle, or mood disorders for example). Tests that evaluate the patient’s cognitive abilities are performed (vision, writing, memory, problem-solving tests). In case of need, the doctor will ask the patient to take an imaging test. cerebral (MRI, magnetic resonance imaging) to observe the structure and activity of different areas of his brain. Complementary examinations are carried out for a more precise diagnosis and to eliminate curable causes.

Your most frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Is Alzheimer’s disease fatal?

Although Alzheimer’s disease is not considered a life-threatening disease, it is responsible for the patient’s weakening which can be fatal thereafter. When we know that in a person with Alzheimer’s, the ability to eat and swallow properly is disrupted, there is a significant risk of pneumonia depending on the age of the person. Pneumonia is even the most common fatal cause in Alzheimer’s patients. To this must be added the increased risk of blood clots forming in the brain because patients become agitated. Alzheimer’s disease also sometimes causes considerable weight loss in a patient, weakening the immune system and making it more susceptible to life-threatening infections. It is also necessary to add the patients who, in their fits of madness, run away from their homes and who unfortunately have fatal traffic accidents. The number of people dying with Alzheimer’s disease has been steadily increasing for several years.



Is Alzheimer’s disease contagious?

To date, no evidence of transmission of Alzheimer’s disease from man to man has been identified. Alzheimer’s disease is therefore not a contagious disease. However, it is a disease that is not yet understood perfectly. It is therefore advisable to be careful in all cases.



Is Alzheimer’s disease hereditary?

Rest assured ! In general, Alzheimer’s disease is not an inherited disease, so it is not spread. However, there are some cases of genetic transmission of Alzheimer’s disease. We now know that there is a family form, which is extremely rare (0.1% of cases).

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