Forgetfulness and memory loss are the emblematic heart of Alzheimer’s disease. However, many other symptoms can occur, both because they are typical of Alzheimer’s disease, but also because they can reveal another neurodegenerative pathology. As much to know when and if there is reason to worry and to consult or not.
The figures speak for themselves: there are more than 25 million patients in the world, including nearly a million in France. After 85 years, approximately 22% of subjects would be affected by the disease.
Age is the main risk factor: the older you get, the more the risk increases. The number of new cases doubles each year by age group of 5 years from 65 years.
For scientific research, the cause of the disease is still unknown and to date there is no treatment to cure patients. The current results of therapeutic trials are all disappointing and no one has a precise idea of the possible benefit of the molecules in reserve which could constitute future drugs…
Frequent oversights: is it Alzheimer’s disease or not?
The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is the simplest in the world. In general, everything starts with a medical consultation with the attending physician and then with the neurologist or geriatrician for “memory complaints”.
Aging very gradually alters memory and the amnesic complaint of a subject can be old, sometimes dating back several years. This anteriority of the problem appears to be reassuring, suggesting that there is no scalability. Perhaps even the subject has always been confronted with this difficulty, since his childhood. The tendency was previously to minimize the significance of memory complaints associated with a normal assessment. It is now accepted that memory problems deemed benign and related to age should no longer be minimized or neglected.
A study published in 2014 in the journal Neurology confirmed this data by showing an increased risk of seeing a neurodegenerative pathology set in 9 to 12 years after the first memory complaints. Other work had already suggested that Alzheimer’s disease could begin well before the appearance of the first signs, the initial lesions sometimes preceding the classic symptomatology by twenty years. It is therefore no longer possible today to trivialize the memory complaint. It requires careful assessment and medical follow-up.
Alzheimer’s: there is forgetting… and forgetting
It happens to everyone, especially during a period of stress, to forget an errand that you have to do, to temporarily misplace an object, to hesitate on a date for an appointment, but it is less frequent to forget a family celebration that occurs rarely, the content of an important professional interview or to have no memory of an important event that has recently occurred in the world (earthquake, war, attack, air crash, etc.) and picked up daily by all the media. If this happens, it should alert you.
It is classic to say that during aging, the memory of old facts is preserved while that of recent facts deteriorates. This same phenomenon is also observed at the onset of neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, a low level of awareness of omissions or, in the extreme, complete unawareness of the problem is always worrying because it is a sign of an already established pathology.
Thus, the absence of memory complaints becomes worrying for the doctor when a member of the family present during the consultation insists on the frequency of oversights in everyday life. When we forget that we forget, it means that the disease is already there.
The others sign that should alarm you
Other varied symptoms should alert you, it can be:
- language disorders often characterized by difficulty finding the right word or constructing sentences correctly,
- an inability to concentrate even a few seconds on a reading,
- hesitation to find one’s bearings in known places,
- an impossibility to carry out certain tasks such as phoning, managing medication, papers, foodstuffs.
Symptoms of the disease in its early stages is well known to doctors now. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more it is possible to slow down its progress and even make the symptoms disappear, leading to a return to a normal life.