Causes & Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

No one experiences Alzheimer’s disease the same way as someone else. Understanding the signs, symptoms and side effects of Alzheimer’s disease is a key component toward starting the recovery journey.

Understanding Alzheimer's Disease

Learn about Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, is a condition that causes memory loss, disorientated thoughts, and a decline in behavioral functioning as it progresses. Early stages of Alzheimer’s can appear in the forms of mild confusion or absentmindedness. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is key in slowing the disease and preventing an individual from experiencing adverse effects as a result of going without treatment.

Known as a disease that worsens over time, Alzheimer’s can affect a person’s ability to communicate, make sound choices, and plan appropriately. Over time, an individual may become more reliant on others for personal care and supervision as this condition can severely impair a person once it reaches the advanced stages. However, there are treatment options and interventions available that can assist people in managing their symptoms and retaining a good quality of life.


Alzheimer’s disease statistics

Studies have concluded that of all dementia cases, 50% to 80% of those individuals have Alzheimer’s disease. Between the ages of 65 and 85, a person’s chances of developing this condition double every five years within that age range. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, individuals who are 85 years old represent 40% of all people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, experts hypothesize that this number will increase as the general population gets older.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease

Several factors play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Research has concluded that a person’s genes, physical makeup, and environmental influences can have a direct impact on his or her chance of developing this disease. Consider the following explanations that expand on these causes and risk factors:

Genetic: It has been found that those with a first-degree relative who has been diagnosed with this condition have a 50% higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease at some point. Because of this link, it can be concluded that this illness is hereditary.

Physical: The onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms can occur following a traumatic brain injury. In instances when there is damage to nerve cells within the brain following an accident or another trauma, cognitive testing may need to be done to determine if an individual is at a higher risk of developing this disease.

Environmental: Experts agree that a number of environmental factors can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Where a person resides, certain life experiences, and life choices can impact a person’s susceptibility to this condition. Additionally, it is believed that a lack of physical activity, poor diet or malnutrition, smoking, and going without social interaction can play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.

Risk Factors:

  • Being of advanced age
  • Being a woman
  • Family history of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or another mental illness
  • Experiencing trauma to one’s head / brain
  • Having coronary artery disease
  • Having high blood pressure and/or cholesterol
  • Being a diabetic
  • Having Down syndrome

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Whether an individual is at the beginning stages of the disease or has progressed to experience more severe symptoms, the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can vary. The onset of symptoms can include forgetfulness or mild confusion, however, the following may begin to manifest as the disease advances:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Wandering
  • Getting lost in places that were once familiar
  • Inability to adhere to instructions
  • Requiring outside assistance in order to complete tasks
  • Misplacing things
  • Withdrawing socially
  • Acting out or having inappropriate behaviors
  • Struggling to communicate thoughts
  • Repetitious thoughts
  • Impaired social skills

Physical symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Muscle weakness
  • Diminished motor functioning
  • Poor balance
  • Weight loss

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Inability to reason
  • Poor decision-making
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of facial / object recognition
  • Memory loss
  • Problems maintaining focus

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Lack of drive
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Increased anxiety
  • Aggressiveness
  • Changes in personality
  • Paranoia


Effects of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is one that affects not only the sufferer, but friends and loved ones of the person grappling with this condition as well. Because Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease, symptoms tend to get worse as time goes on and can elicit a number of devastating effects. Some of these effects can include:

  • Inability to recognize friends or loved ones
  • Social isolation or withdrawal from social situations
  • Severe memory impairment
  • Hindered language capabilities
  • Disorientation
  • Compromised immune system
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Frequent loss of balance
  • Mood swings or changes in personality
  • Fecal or urinary incontinence

Co-Occurring Disorders

Alzheimer’s disease and co-occurring disorders

In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, a person could suffer from another mental health condition at the same time. Disorders that are known to occur alongside Alzheimer’s are:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Substance use disorders
what past clients say

When my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, we felt like there was no hope. Thankfully, we found StoneCrest. After getting therapeutic intervention and participating in family therapy, we were both more prepared to face his disease. I cannot thank the caring and compassionate staff at StoneCrest enough!

– Wife of a former client
Marks of Quality Care
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