Alzheimer’s disease is the most well-known memory disease in society. Dr. Blesa, an expert in Neurology, talks about its prevention and treatment, depending on the stage of the patient.
When can a patient be suspected of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease?
When a person complains that his memory is failing, when a person forgets recent events, when a person repeats the same question several times, when a person feels disoriented or arrives in a room without knowing what he has gone to do, all these are symptoms that somehow have to make this person or his family think that it is worthwhile to be analyzed by a doctor, his family doctor or his neurologist, to see if these symptoms really translate something that may indicate that it is the beginning of a disease that affects the memory, as we know that the most frequent in the population is Alzheimer’s disease.
Why does Alzheimer’s disease occur and what are its causes?
Alzheimer’s disease is actually the representation in a person of what happens when his or her cells, especially memory cells, begin to disappear, begin to die. Why does this neuronal disease occur? Because it appears in the brain in a slow and progressive way, sometimes during a period of more than 20 years, the deposit of a normal protein, that all people have in our brain but that during the day and the night we eliminate it. People with Alzheimer’s disease do not eliminate it, this amyloid, this substance remains deposited and after 15-20 years it causes the neurons to begin to degenerate. When they degenerate is when the symptoms start to appear and the more degeneration, the more symptoms and the more dependence the person with Alzheimer’s will have.
How is Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed?
We can make the diagnosis of the disease in two phases, when the patient has not yet become dementia, i.e. in the early stage of the disease, when it is possible to make prevention, or when the person already has symptoms of dementia and therefore we have to make the diagnosis so as not to make a mistake and put those measures that will be important for that person throughout the disease process. When the person has dementia, a neuro-psychological examination must be performed, imaging tests must be done to rule out other causes and from here, the appropriate remedies must be applied. In the phase in which prevention is still possible, it is necessary to make the diagnosis when the person has memory lapses and detect whether there is an amyloid deposit in the brain. We do this with a technique, PET Scan, which shows us that the person who has memory failures is because he has an abnormal accumulation in his brain of this amyloid and this places him in a position of great risk of developing the disease. We can also help these people.
What is the most appropriate treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and can its progression be slowed down?
What we are trying to do is prevention, therefore making everyday life, the models of the person’s quality of life in terms of avoiding obesity, hypertension, eating a Mediterranean diet, exercising, are a way of preventing the disease without a doubt. Another issue is whether we can use drugs that reduce the amount of amyloid in the person’s brain and therefore lower the risk of developing dementia in the future. And the third would be in the person who has already started with symptoms of the disease, who will progressively move from mild to more advanced stages. In the mild and moderate phases we have drugs that are indicated for symptomatic treatment, therefore for the improvement of those symptoms. While in the advanced stages these drugs are no longer useful and what we have to know is that there are elements in society to improve the quality of life of these people and their families in day centers, in appropriate hospitals, social-health centers where they can be properly cared for.