June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, so we thought we would share a little bit about different brain conditions and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Distinguishing Between Conditions
Before we dive into the details, it is important to understand the difference between Alzheimer’s and other brain conditions. Often people hear of Alzheimer’s and Dementia and consider them to be one in the same. While they are very closely related, they do have their differences.
Dementia is an umbrella term for a host of conditions that involve memory loss, difficulty thinking, concentrating, speaking/language, and problem-solving. Dementia is not it’s own disease; it consists of different types of diseases including Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia, Huntington’s Disease and Mixed Dementia.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of dementia that progresses over time and significantly impairs memory and other brain and mental abilities.
In both Alzheimer’s and Dementia, there are a wide array of changes and mechanisms that occur in the brain.
In Alzheimer’s Disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, “microscopic changes in the brain begin long before the first signs of memory loss”.
Our brain relies on different sources within it to function and operate properly. For instance, we have 100 billion nerve cells within our brain alone, each serving a different function. Generally speaking, these nerve cells are essentially communicators for other parts the brain to keep things operating smoothly. Certain nerve cells hold the specific functions of memory, retention, comprehension, speech, learning, and so on while others help us to utilize our senses.
In simplest terms, memory loss and/or dementia and Alzheimer’s can occur when one of those cells or mechanisms is out of sync or damaged. In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association notes that plaques and tangles, which are abnormal structures within the brain, are likely the culprit in altering nerve cells and thus, their function. There is still much more research to be done within that area.
You can learn more about how the brain is impacted in Alzheimer’s on the Alzheimer’s Association website (include link).
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of both Dementia and Alzheimer’s are pretty similar. They include:
- Memory changes, such as loss of long-term memory, difficulty remembering, etc.
- Difficulty keeping track of belongings.
- Difficulty completing multi-step or memory-based tasks.
- Remembering appointments, times, etc.
If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it is recommended to follow up with your healthcare provider. Earlier detection can make a difference.
Stages of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s Disease has progresses in various stages, including:
- Asymptomatic: This is the stage where there are changes in the brain, but there are no physical or emotional symptoms yet. This can occur many years before symptoms become noticeable.
- Mild Cognitive Impairment: This stage is the early stage of memory loss or difficulties with cognition. This stage does not always transpire into Dementia or Alzheimer’s but can in some people.
- Mild Dementia: Mild Dementia is the stage where symptoms are increasingly prominent and start to interfere with some parts of everyday life.
- Moderate Dementia: Moderate Dementia is the stage where symptoms are even more prominent and start to interfere with more and more parts of everyday life.
- Severe Dementia: Severe Dementia is the stage where symptoms are so severe that they impact most parts of everyday life.
Treatment and Management:
Unfortunately, there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. However, treatment management options such as medications, clinical trials, and research opportunities are advancing every day.
Medications such as Aduhelm and Leqembi have been used in helping to prevent the rapid decline in functioning by eliminating some plaques in the brain that are suspected contributors of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Supporting Loved Ones:
If a loved one of yours is displaying signs of or has been diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimer’s, we understand it can be hard to watch your loved one lose abilities they once had. While you may feel frustrated that there is nothing you can do, the best thing you can do for them is to support them in the ways you can. This can include:
- Refraining from judgement.
- Doing pleasurable activities/making memories with them. Some people may think that just because their loved one has lost their memory, they won’t be able to remember the good times; which may be true, but they very likely will be able to enjoy them in the moment and provide a source of happiness in their life.
- Helping them manage things like appts, grocery shopping, keeping track of things that they may have difficulty with.
- Attending doctors appointments with them.
- Checking in on them.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia are difficult conditions for both the patient and their loved ones, but you are not alone. Resources are out there. If you are interested in learning more about our study for Early Alzheimer’s Disease, visit our website to learn more.
What is Alzheimer’s? (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers
What is Dementia’s? (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers