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What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

Alzheimer's Disease is a disease that is associated with amyloid plaques and tau (or neurofibrillary) tangles in those areas when a pathologist looks under the microscope at a person's brain.

Typical Alzheimer's Disease starts after the age of 65, and is associated amyloid and tau deposition in the memory and language areas of the brain. It has a predictable course. It has mild, moderate, and severe stages, and, if discovered early, can last for more than 20 years.

Mild symptoms of Typical Alzheimer's Disease include problems remembering events despite reminders, repeating oneself, having trouble expressing names or words, or trouble understanding others. There are more symptoms in moderate and severe stage as the disease progresses.

There are more than 6 other forms of Alzheimer's Disease!

These include Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease, in which symptoms occur before the age of 65. This is usually associated with more of language, visual, or focusing problem. The Behavioral/Dyexecutive variant Alzheimer's Disease involves apathy, problems with processing information, making decisions, judgement, and controlling negative impulses and inappropriate behavior.

There is also Logopenic Primary Progressive Aphasia, a syndrome which is usually caused by Alzheimer's Disease in mostly the language parts of the brain. People with this have trouble understanding others, or expressing themselves.

Corticobasal Syndrome is also a diagnosis that can be associated with Alzheimer's Disease, and in this case, a person may have signs of parkinsonism, have trouble perceiving half of their environment or using one side of their body.

Posterior Cortical Atrophy or Balint's Syndrome is another diagnosis that can be associated with Alzheimer's Disease. In Balint's Syndrome, a person has issues with visual perception. They have trouble seeing objects, moving their eyes, and reaching for objects. In Posterior Cortical Atrophy, a person has difficulty writing, calculating, telling right from left, and features of Balint's syndrome.

So you can see how the many forms of Alzheimer's Disease may confuse a primary care provider, ophthalmologist, optometrist, general neurologist, or speech pathologist. This is why Alzheimer's Disease often does not get diagnosed until the moderate or severe stage. See a specialist right away!

Regardless of the type of Alzheimer's Disease, there are ways of slowing the disease down or improving their environment to help the person function better. There are ways to improve their quality of life. A person and friends or family should be diagnosed as early as possible so they have a better chance of keeping their symptoms stable for longer, understanding their disease, and planning for the future.

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