Continued from previous page.

Causes of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors. The exact cause of the disease is not fully understood.

An Alzheimer’s patient develops some abnormalities in the brain which are responsible for the gradual decline and eventual death of brain cells. These are:

  • Plaques of beta-amyloid protein: A build-up of beta-amyloid protein deposits destroys brain cells and interferes with the communication between cells.
  • Tangles of nerve cells: Nerve cells develop tangles (ne​urofibrillary tangles) and this affects the transportation of nutrients into the cells.

“It is not clear why these abnormalities occur b​​ut research points to a link with a normally occurring blood protein called ApoE,” says Dr Shahul Hameed, Consultant, Department of Neurology,​ National Neurosc​​ience Institute (NNI) (Singapore General Hospital campus)​, a member of the SingH​ealth​ group.​

Diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is diagnosed after a thorough clinical, psychiatric and neurological evaluation. Since there is no cure for the disease, treatment involves drugs that help manage the symptoms.

“The duration of Alzheimer’s varies from patient to patient and can range from a couple of years to a couple of decades, culminating in death,” says Dr Hameed. “On average, an Alzheimer’s patient lives for 8-10 years after the symptoms appear.”

Some patients experience a worsening of their Alzheimer's symptoms once the sun sets. Read on to learn about sundowning, or sundown syndrome, in Alzheimer's patients.

Ref. S13