East Central Indiana Blog

The Physical Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Most people are aware of the cognitive issues associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The exact cause of the disease is still a mystery to the medical community, though doctors now believe that the disease may be related to the increased build-up of a special type of protein, called amyloid, in the brain. This protein clumps and tangles in deposits called plaques, which can impair normal brain function, or even kill healthy brain cells. Plaque deposits usually first build-up in the area of the brain that forms memories, (hence why many people with Alzheimer’s retain older memories, while being unable to access more recent memories, or create new ones), but as the disease progresses, these deposits will also form in other parts of the brain, causing physical, as well as cognitive, changes. If you, or someone you love, are living with Alzheimer’s disease, here are some of the physical symptoms to be aware of as the disease progresses.

 

Loss of Balance and Coordination

While Alzheimer’s affects each person differently, a common symptom of later stages is the loss of balance and muscle coordination. This happens as plaque builds in the cerebellum, a portion of the brain located next to the brain stem. Patients experiencing these symptoms will need increasing care and help with daily tasks, as well as mobility.

 

Stiff or Fatigued Muscles and Changes in Gate

As plaque continues to build in different parts of the brain, another common area affected is the motor cortex. This structure, located in the top center portion of the brain, controls muscle movement. As the plaque begins to impede the impulse from this portion of the brain, or kills cells altogether, there are a number of possible symptoms that may occur, including noticeable changes in the way the person ambulates, constant muscle fatigue, or stiffness in the muscles. Gate changes typically present as a “shuffling” motion that, combined will a loss of balance and coordination, can greatly increase the risk of injury from falls. Such changes may require the patient to adapt by using a walker or other assistive mobility tool. This, along with over-the-counter pain management and massage therapy, can also help with muscle stiffness and fatigue.

 

Trouble Sleeping

Patients that have plaque build-up in the hypothalamus may experience disruptions in sleep. These disruptions may include difficulty falling asleep, due to agitation, or changes in the sleep-wake cycle. Patients who have trouble falling asleep or who do not remain asleep through a normal sleep cycle, are generally restless and may wander or call out, disrupting the sleep of others. For these patients, 24-hour care may be required for safety, or desired by family caregivers who are affected by the lack of sleep. The inability to sleep at night may also lead to drowsiness or increased napping during the day.

One additional concern for patients experiencing a disruption in their sleep pattern is an increased likelihood of depression. Exercise and a regular daily routine, as well as regular social interaction, can all help with the symptoms of depression, as well as help reinforce a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

 

Seizures

According to the American Epilepsy Society, studies show that patients with Alzheimer’s Disease are also at an increased risk for seizures, associated with Epilepsy. In fact, Alzheimer’s patients are 6 -10 times more likely to experience these seizures. For patients who begin to experience seizures, it is important to communicate with their doctor, as there are many medications that can greatly decrease the incidence of seizures. Finally, these patients may need to explore increased care options, in order to make sure that care is available in the event of a seizure.

 

Alzheimer’s Links and Additional Information

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these Alzheimer’s related symptoms, and would like more tips, tools, or information on the disease itself, check out the links below, and for more information on home care options for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, contact us here Visiting Angles through the “Contact Us’ tab, or at 877-618-4748.

Alzheimer’s and Epilepsy: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3482722/

What Alzheimer’s Does to Your Body: https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/alzheimers-body#1

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