Alzheimer’s disease: Symptoms, stages, causes, and treatments

Stages of Alzheimer’s disease

The symptoms listed above correspond to different stages of the disease. However, the clinical staging includes four stages instead of three. They are as follows:

  • Preclinical Alzheimer’s disease: In this stage, the damage in the brain starts near the hippocampus, in an area known as the entorhinal cortex. After taking this area, it starts causing damage in the hippocampus, a critical brain region for memory processing. During preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, these brain regions stop functioning correctly and may even suffer atrophy. However, the process takes many years, sometimes decades, before experiencing symptoms. The first symptom is mild memory loss. However, mental status and neurologic examinations show no particular alteration.
  • Mild Alzheimer’s disease: Alzheimer’s disease goes from a preclinical stage to a clinical-stage when the disease affects the cerebral cortex. When this happens, patients start experiencing more frequent symptoms, and memory loss become established. In most cases, Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed during this mild stage because patients already have noticeable memory and cognitive function alterations. At first, they may think this is part of the normal aging process, but after a while, they become worried and suspect there’s something else going on. There are more plaques in the brain during this stage, and they initially damage the brain area related to memory consolidation and recall, reasoning, and language. After these symptoms are clearly established, brain damage continues in other brain areas associated with movement and other physical cues.
  • Moderate Alzheimer’s disease: During this stage, brain damage becomes extensive to even more areas in the cerebral cortex. This causes cognitive problems and language issues, difficulty processing their own senses, difficulty to reason, focus, and much more. The corresponding regions for all of these functions start atrophy, and patients begin to experience significant mood problems. Their behavior starts to change and often becomes inappropriate and distressing for their family and caretakers. In this stage, they can become angry or paranoid, but this is only a reflection of their anxiety and confusion. They are frightened because the world around them feels confusing and strange. They can’t anticipate what will happen and do not know where they are. This stage is different for every patient, but if your relative is becoming violent, it is essential to be careful around him as the disease progresses. It is also useful to detect friends and family members who they trust. Patients often feel more confident and reduce their violent or distressing behaviors around them.
  • Severe Alzheimer’s disease: This is the last and worst stage of the disease. When patients reach this stage, the Alzheimer’s plaques can be found all over the brain areas, not only in memory-related regions. These patients do not remember their family members at all, and they can hardly communicate. Their motor functions, sphincter control, and much more are affected by the disease. They also have problems processing their senses and stay in bed most of the day or all day long. The most common cause of death is aspiration pneumonia because their swallowing motor control is deeply affected.

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