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Alzheimer’s Disease – Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Dr. Susanth M. J, Consultant – Neurologist, SUT Hospital, Pattom, Trivandrum

Our memories are one of the greatest blessings we receive in life. They are the symbols of our own existence and life experiences. Life progresses on the basis of memories.

Memory loss is one of the most devastating crisis in life. Dementia is a condition in which memories are gradually diminished. It is estimated that 44 million people worldwide have dementia. In India, it is almost close to 4 million.

For the past ten years, Alzheimer’s Day is celebrated on September 21 so as to create awareness among the public about this disease. This year’s theme is ‘know dementia, know Alzheimer’s’. This means getting to know more about the disease and also early stage detection to start the treatment as soon as possible. At the same time, Alzheimer’s patients should be considered as one among us.

 Brain cells which save our memories are located on the temporal lobe. The destruction of these cells results in Dementia. It may be due to aging, lack of thyroid hormone, damage to the brain, stroke, lack of vitamins such as vitamin B12 and thiamine, various infections affecting the brain and brain tumors. The most significant one is the destruction of memory cells due to aging which leads to Alzheimer’s disease.

The risk of progression of Alzheimer’s disease increases with age. One in ten people over the age of 65 and one in three people over the age of 85 are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Inherited dementia, high blood pressure, diabetes, excessive smoking, alcoholism, etc. also increase the risk of dementia.

Difficulty in recollecting is common among people over 65 years of age. Many people can remember those things if they are given time or small hints. But with the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, it is hardly possible.

It is natural for the elderly to forget where things are kept. For example, we unknowingly put key inside fridge and wallets in the washing machine. Older people often forget some of the conversations they have had before. There will be difficulties in dealing with financial matters. You may lost way even in familiar places. Mood swings are common among them and wanting to be alone most of the time. It is common to sit in front of the TV for a long time and spend more time in sleeping. Forgetting the names of distant acquaintance and difficult to get words in between conversations can be said to be the initial stage of this disease which lasts for two to three years.

Memory loss gradually gets severe in the second stage of the disease. This stage leads to situations like even the name of family members is forgotten. They find it difficult to engage in meaningful conversations and are confined to their own world as much as possible. Patients have the illusion that the people are suspicious about them and make them in danger. This makes it difficult to take care of them. At the same time, the sense of direction is lost. They find it difficult to travel outside on their own. They lack attention in personal hygiene. Second phase lasts from eight to ten years.

During third stage, the patient loss memory completely and they even forget their existence. Gradually they lose mobility and become patient bedridden. At loss of appetite, malnutrition and weight loss are also evident in this stage. It affects the immune system and it increases the frequency of infections then leads to death.


Alzheimer’s disease is not completely curable. However, early diagnosis can reduce the severity of the disease. Diagnosis is mainly based on symptoms and memory-based questionnaires. Blood tests, CT or MRI scan of the brain must be done to confirm that there is no other reason for dementia. If you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you should take medication as prescribed by your doctor to boost your memory along with proper physical exercise and a nutritious diet. In addition, recreational activities help to reduce stress and intellectual games such as crossword puzzles and chess can help to improve memory. Care takers should be aware of the specifics of the disease and how deal with it. Frequent changes of caregivers and living space can make difficulty for the patient so it should be avoided. Depression and infection in a patient should be identified and treated.

Although dementia is more common in the elderly, it is also noticed among youth. Workload and mental stress are responsible for dementia among them. Proper exercise, avoiding smoking and drinking and engaging in meaningful conversations can help improve memory. Hereditary Alzheimer’s disease is found among youth very rarely.