The words Alzheimer’s and Dementia are often used interchangeably by many people who think they mean the same thing. However the two things, although very similar are not quite the same. Dementia is a collection of symptoms relating to memory loss. You can have dementia that is completely unrelated to Alzheimer’s, whereas; Alzheimer’s is a disease that deteriorates the brain. You can however still have dementia with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s can be a very frightening condition. Often people consider it to be worse than cancer, as there is actually a chance of recovery with cancer, whereas with this disease, there is not currently. The worst aspect being that, even though the person suffering is still living, they slowly degrade into a completely different person who probably won’t even remember who you are. Therefore the grief process can happen twice. First when you lose them as a person and then secondly when they do pass away.
Although the prospect of Alzheimer’s is indeed terrifying to most, there has been a lot of Clinical Research into the subject to look for a cure to prevent the brain from deteriorating. Quite recently, the BBC reported than the UK government had pledged to donate £300 million towards Dementia research!
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a relatively common condition that affects about 800,000 people in the UK. The risk of contracting this condition increases the older you are. As a result the condition usually occurs in people over the age of 65. However it is known to affect younger people too.
Alzheimer’s affects the brain and is associated with an on-going decline of the brains ability to process information and perform menial tasks. The following are a list of symptoms:
- Memory loss
- Thinking speed reduction
- Mental agility reduction
- Language deterioration
- Loss of understanding
- Judgement becomes impaired
- Increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require concentration and planning
- Changes in personality and mood
- Periods of mental confusion
People with this condition can become indifferent and uninterested in their usual activities and have issues with emotions, not limited to their own, but also failing to understand other people’s feelings too.
Their personalities may change dramatically and they may not want to go out and socialise, as they find it more and more challenging the more they deteriorate and the condition progresses into later stages.
As it is also hard to differentiate between reality and fiction, an Alzheimer’s sufferer can sometimes get both mixed up and tell stories that didn’t actually happen, or they could have crystal clear memory of something that happened decades ago but cannot remember anything recent.
Planning and organising becomes near impossible and if they do not have the support of family, they may be forced to rely on care homes and their staff. This can be very distressing. Many suffers prefer to be independent for as long as possible.
Most cases of Alzheimer’s cannot be cured, but if caught early enough, it can be slowed significantly.
To date there is no known cure for this condition, with today’s treatments providing only small relief from the symptoms that Alzheimer’s generates. However, these treatments can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life, so therefore it is vital that as much clinical research as possible is performed.
The more Clinical Trials for Dementia that take place, the higher chance there is of finding a treatment that could slow down the condition in its later stages or even stop the progression of the condition entirely. Even though it is the dementia side that is being investigated, finding new treatments can open the door for advancement in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients.
Currently there is research being conducted into the drug known as amlodipine, as a potential treatment for vascular dementia. Amlodipine is a drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure. By testing a drug that is already widely prescribed, the amount of time and money needed to develop treatments may be reduced significantly.
This in turn could also help those who have Alzheimer’s. The study is set to take four years and involves using around 600 people from the UK who currently have either Vascular dementia or some form of Alzheimer’s.
If trials are successful, it could provide a new treatment in as little as five to ten years.
The participants will be split into two groups, with one group taking amlodipine on a regular basis for a year, and the other group taking a placebo under the same conditions. Both groups will be monitored over the course of two years.
The main reason for this is to see if the people taking the actual drug and not the placebo show any signs of improvement related to the drug. If there are improvements then the changes can be attributed to the Amlodipine and therefore more research can be done to optimise the treatment.