What Are The Stages Of Alzheimer’s Disease?

While no one wants to think about someone they love experiencing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of people in the United States and all over the world. Despite how many people are living with Alzheimer’s, it is still poorly understood by those who don’t have a direct connection to the disease. Since it’s a progressive illness, Alzheimer’s symptoms are mild at first but worsen over time as the patient progresses through the various stages of the disease. If you’re unfamiliar with this process, read on to learn more about the stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

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What Are The Stages Of Alzheimer’s?

There are several stages of Alzheimer’s disease that patients go through over the course of the disease’s progression. The first stage, or stage one, is the stage before symptoms of dementia are observed. That means the person is free of the symptoms of cognitive or functional decline. The second stage is primarily characterized by subjective memory loss, which can also be associated with age-related forgetfulness. At this stage, patients may struggle to remember things like details and names as easily as they previously could.

The third stage of the disease involves mild cognitive impairment. The deficits that develop during this stage are usually subtle but noticeable. Performing executive functions can become more difficult, and people may repeat queries more frequently. This is also the stage where job performance often suffers. The average duration of the MCI stage is about seven years. Stage four, known as moderate cognitive decline, is when symptoms often become pronounced enough to definitively diagnose a patient with Alzheimer’s disease.

By stage five, independent living is usually too dangerous for Alzheimer’s patients. Cognitively, patients may struggle to recall major events and aspects of their lives, and many daily tasks will require assistance. Stage six is divided into several subcategories, all of which track severe cognitive decline. Symptoms can become quite severe at this stage. Patients have trouble with almost all daily activities and begin to struggle with articulating sentences and finding words.

The final stage, stage seven, is very severe cognitive decline. This stage also has several substages. When in the final substage, patients survive indefinitely until they succumb to illness, injury, or disease.

Is There A Cure For Alzheimer’s?

As of this moment, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. There are several medications and treatments available, but these are focused on managing symptoms and slowing the progression of the disease. Experts believe that lifestyle factors can also help to improve outcomes, but there is no way to cure Alzheimer’s or alter the disease process in the brain at this point. Death in the advanced stages of the disease is usually caused by complications from severe loss of brain function, like dehydration, malnutrition, or infection.

It is estimated that over 5 million people in the United States who are over 65 years of age have Alzheimer’s disease. Over 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and experts believe 60 to 70 percent of that population has Alzheimer’s. Though the exact cause of the disease isn’t fully understood, it is caused on a basic level by brain proteins functioning abnormally. A series of toxic events triggered by these proteins cause neurons to deteriorate, lose connection to each other and eventually die.

There’s still a lot to learn about Alzheimer’s, and there is a lot of research underway aimed at finding more effective treatments and, hopefully, a cure. If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms associated with dementia, it’s a good idea to see a doctor as soon as you can. Your doctor can tell you more about what could be causing your symptoms and monitor them so they can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease as early as possible.

Once diagnosed, there are several stages of disease progression. Understanding these stages can help you plan and prepare appropriately, so it’s important for patients and the people in their lives to learn as much as they can.

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