World Alzheimer's Day: Pay attention to these early signs of the disease
World Alzheimer's Day: Alzheimer's, a neurodegenerative disease, most common in people over the age of 65, can majorly impact the quality of life of the person affected. The most common cause of dementia all over the world, it is important to pay attention to the early symptoms of Alzheimer's in elderly.
Alzheimer's occurs due to degeneration of nerves which causes progressive dysfunction of the anatomical areas involved in memory and behaviour. "This is due to the deposition of Senile Plaques (SP) consisting of amyloid beta and neurofibrillary tangles. The deposition of SP starts in the Hippocampus, which is the most critical structure involved with recent memory, and then spreads to other brain areas as the disease advances," says Dr Rajesh Benny, Consultant Neurologist, Fortis Hospital Mulund.
One may notice changes in the memory, behaviour and communication skills of a person in the early stages of Alzheimer's and this is when a neurologist must be consulted.
Dr. Raj Agarbattiwala, Consultant Neurosurgeon, Stroke Specialist & Neurointerventionist, Masina Hospital elaborates on some early symptoms of Alzheimer's:
1. Memory loss: The most important sign that indicate a person is affected by Alzheimer's is memory loss. Forgetfulness is not a disease in itself. But in Alzheimer's patients it is too frequent and too gross. Like if one visits a place and within a day or two forgets completely about it or if one faces confusion about familiar places like bathroom in the house or forgets where the keys are kept on a regular basis, not once or twice, it is a sign of concern.
2. Trouble in calculating or handling money: Another early sign is when a person finds it difficult to make basic calculations, and handling money or paying the bills.
3. Depression and mood changes: A person who is suffering from Alzheimer's may face mood changes. Depression is a very early sign of Alzheimer's disease and many times it may precede it.
4. Problem in judgement: A person with Alzheimer's may have difficulty in making decisions.
5. Trouble in concentration: The patient may have problems concentrating on usual work that he/she used to do well before.
6. Difficulty in communication: An Alzheimer's patient may not be able to find correct words to form sentences.
7. Restlessness: They may not be able to recognise relatives, become restless, or may make some movements repeatedly. Sometimes, they might have hallucinations.
Usually, the patient is not aware of the problem and these small things must be noticed by their family members. If one feels something is amiss in the behaviour of their loved ones, or they are withdrawing themselves socially, a neurologist must be contacted immediately.
"Considering there is no imaging for the disease, ruling out other things which could possibly cause memory loss could be done. Vitamin B12 deficiency, depression or some chronic disease could mimic Alzheimer's symptoms," says Dr Agarbattiwala.
A person with Alzheimer's requires a huge social and family support apart from medication and therapy because the disease progresses in due time and a person may not be able to take care of himself/herself eventually.