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Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Message Board

Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Board Index

Well Yes, I'll try.....Although I am not a Doctor nor a nurse.

Dementia is a general term. It is used these days in place of senile or senility. The old term of senile is thought to be demeaning and not too accurate (today), to describe in a general term various kinds of dementia(s); or brain impairing illnesses; or conditions that cause diminished cognitive functioning; or impairment. Dementia is a general term in which any number of illness can be lumped into one general phrase "Dementia". There is Lewdy Body; Alzheimer's; Sundowner's; just to name a few forms of dementia.

Vascular dementia however, is not a general term to describe a wide variety of cognitive impairing diseases. Vascular dementia is a specific disease which is in medical terms, denoting TIA's or stroke or "mini-strokes". Vascular dementia is very treatable and is not necessarily permanent. Vascular dementia is caused when small blood-vessels in the brain brake or rupture under force and the brain either gets engorged with blood, (swelling on the brain), or the veins close down all together and withhold vital oxygen rich blood to the brain cells. Although these "strokes" can leave permanent damage, they can also be avoided once diagnosed and treated carefully with medications. The purpose of these medications is to keep the blood pressure and the cholesterol levels down, so that blood flow in the brain is not interrupted and the brain is not starved for oxygen. Plaque can also build up in the brain the same way plaque builds up in the heart. Therefore methods to thin the blood is just as effective in the prevention of mini-strokes as it is in heart and artery disease. Cumadin or other blood thinners are used to prevent stroke and stroke-like symptoms as well as aspirin therapy. (A very common treatment in Vascular Dementia... and AD.)

However, although Alzheimer's is a form, (and just one form of Dementia), it is not the only form. And, unlike Vascular Dementia, it is not preventable, nor is it curable nor does anyone know why, (at least at this time), it happens or the cause.

My mother had Alzheimer's, she also was being treated for artery problems and was on aspirin therapy. This is very common for people with AD to also have heart or blood or artery problems as well. However, Alzheimer's disease is not a lack of oxygen, nor high blood pressure nor high cholesterol, nor stroke,,,(like I say,,,many diseases can be present at once, not just one)...(no).

AD is a physical disease of the brain. The only true way to diagnose AD is at death. A frozen tissue (thin piece of brain) is sliced and studied under a high powered microscope. The normal brain is like cauliflower. Nice and "mealy", firm and well formed. However the AD brain has holes. Like holes in a donut. And these holes are brain matter, that have literally been eaten away by the disease of Alzheimer's. Also, before the brain tissue fully disolves into nothing, it becomes soft and musky, almost like soup. As the disease progresses, the holes get bigger and more and more holes develop. The last whole area's of brain that are still able to function are the parts for earliest memory, and autotomic refluxes like chewing and breathing.

(Many later stage AD sufferers want to "go home", the home is a TIME rather than a PLACE, because the "here and now" doesn't exist any more for them. "Home" usually means "with mom and dad", when they were a kid, or a young boy or girl. A time when they were little and being cared for by a parent).

Going back to childhood and loosing the abilities to function as an adult, is called "regression". This is very common in heart patients and AD patients as well. Although heart patients (and surgery patients) usually "get over" oyygen starvation to the brain, (that sometimes causes this phnenomia), the Alzheimer's patient never does fully "come back" from this condition.

Once you understand "what", exactly AD is,,,you can realize that you can not catch it like a cold. You can not get injured or get bumped in the head, (like in a car accident),,,nor can you get it from canned foods, smoking, (although smoking can put little holes in your lungs, it seldom puts holes in your brain), drinking liquor, or any emotional instabilities, or mental illnesses. Alzheimer's is a real physical disease. The cause unknown, the cure (not developed as yet),,, none, and the treatment...., vital to the patient AND the caregiver.

If a doctor can not do a simple diagnosis of the disease that he or she is treating,,,(does not know the exact thing that he/she is working with),,,then how do we expect them to treat us properly.??? It is impairative to have the right treatment for the appropriate disease or condition.

Vascular Dementia can be treated and further damaged suffered by this disease can be prevented with the proper diagnosis and the proper patient care. Mini-strokes and permanent brain damage from oxygen starved brains can be avoided with the proper early diagnosis and treatments.

There is no prevention (however), for AD. AD just is. It's actual physical holes in the human brain at the celular level. It comes, and it is there, and there is nothing really that you can do to make it any better. In fact it never gets better. It is a permanent, and progressive disease. True it takes a long, long time to go full circle. But, it continues to go no matter what we do,,,or how we treat it,,,there is no stopping it. You can slow it down. But, you can not stop it. There is no cure.

Doctors treat Alzheimer's with a "make the patient as comfortable as possible" policy. The proper care and treatment involves medications for mood and emotional stability. Most AD sufferers finally do suffer from behavioral problems and emotional and mental problems that can be treated very effectively with the proper medications. (Mood altering drugs. I am not talking about AD med's per sec, although these do help. There are many more drugs that treat the symptoms associated with AD, other than the standard AD medications, that are also helpful. Sometimes even mandatory for the comfort of the patient, as well as the caregiver).

Drugs for anxiety, anger, depression, delusions, etc, etc,,,are often given with the standard AD medications. Many patients with AD are taking drugs for AD. But they are still suffering the effects of the other symptoms. And they say, "The drugs do not work". Well, if you'd stop taking them you'll see that they Do work. (And, stopping a drug like say, Aricept is not recommended as a person can get bad really quickly once pulled off the drug). A wise doctor will know that the AD drugs only treat the symptoms of "AD". And, that those are not necessarily the only symptoms the patient will suffer with, with this terriable disease. (Most people think of AD as a memory disease only. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Unless you realise the other symptoms that go hand and hand with this monsterous disease, you can not get appropriate treatment or care from your medical professional). A good doctor will treat the depression and the anxiety and the behavoral problems as well as the AD symptoms. Because if they don't; the patient will be next to impossiable to care for, (and care about).

It is only in trying to find the exact (patients) problem, and an exact diagnosis of that problem, that a doctor can then try to treat his patient properly, accurately, and effectively, and with respect.


I hope this helps

PS: Although surgery can disorient a person, (any one of any age; but), especially the elderly who may already have other health concerns. Surgery, per sec, does not "cause" Alzheimer's to suddenly appear out of no where. If a person is known to have AD then proper steps to address this condition with the Anathesiologist ahead of time should be made for this "Pre-existing condition". Most common however, is someone haveing problems already with AD, and surgery only goes to further effect an already suffering brain. Or, surgery can cause a "cognitive functioning" backlash, by lack of oxygen in surgery; or simple disorientation that can be temporary; bad surgery; or reactions to medications or drugs used during or after surgery. A complete medical examination should always be done to really determine the exact cause of the problems and complications as relates to any surgical proceedure.

[This message has been edited by gizmolove (edited 03-05-2003).]

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