What is the life expectancy of a patient with Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is probably one of the most feared in the general population, due to its high prevalence and the devastating effects of its progress on those who suffer from it. Most people know that this condition causes progressive deterioration of mental faculties, the best known and most important (but not the only) of which is memory.

Likewise, there is a certain idea that in addition to these losses, Alzheimer’s disease generates an increasing impact on the subject until his death. In this sense, it is common for many people to ask what life expectancy does an Alzheimer’s patient have. Answering this question is complex, but throughout this article we will try to provide a rough prediction based on the average life expectancy of a person with this condition.

    What is Alzheimer’s disease?

    We know that Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases, which still has no known cause and is becoming more and more prevalent, in part due to the gradual aging of the population. This disease, which causes dementia, is characterized by the appearance of progressive and irreversible deterioration and death of neurons that populate our brain, which in turn generates an equally progressive loss of cognitive faculties.

    This dementia does not appear suddenly, but begins to manifest itself insidiously, affecting the temporal and parietal cortices first over time to spread to the rest cortex and also affect subcortical structures.

    Functionally, the most recognizable symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is episodic memory loss, as well as the presence of anterograde amnesia or the inability to retain new information.

    In addition to this there are also problems with speech (initially anomie or inability to find the name of things but over time advancing difficulties in this regard to aphasia), recognition / identification of faces and objects and of motricidad and sequencing of the movements, something that finishes to form the syndrome denominated apaso-apraxo-agnósico. There are also perceptual (such as loss of smell) and behavioral (eg, wandering or loss of impulse control) factors that can lead to some aggression.

    the same it is common for delusions of harm to appear (Some of which may result from memory problems) and severe difficulty in attention, disinhibition or extreme gentleness, or emotional disturbances.

    three phases

    The progression of the deterioration inherent in this disease occurs in three phases. At first, difficulties such as anterograde amnesia begin to appear in the initial phase, problems with memory and cognitive and everyday performance, problems with problem solving and judgment, Certain withdrawal and possibly depressive symptoms such as listlessness, depression or irritability. This first phase generally lasts between two and four years.

    Later one arrives at a second phase, the duration can go up to five years, in which the aforementioned aphasic-apraxo-agnósico syndrome begins to appear. This syndrome is characterized as we have said as causing more and more problems with communication, execution of movement sequences and the ability to identify stimuli.

    There is also a spatiotemporal disorientation, maintaining a much more pronounced recent memory loss and a decrease in self-awareness. Apathy and depressive symptoms appear, As well as irritability and may receive delusions of harm (in part related to memory loss) and even verbal or physical aggression. Pulse control is much less. Problems also appear in the activities of daily living, which makes the subject more and more dependent and already requires external supervision for most of the activities (although he is still able to perform the most basic).

    In the third and final phase of this disease, the subject is deeply deteriorated. Memory loss can even affect childhood episodes, And it may happen that the subject suffers from an ecmnesia in which the person believes he is at some point in childhood. There are already severe communication difficulties (suffering from severe aphasia in which the ability to understand and express is virtually non-existent) and problems with movement and walking.

    It is common for there to also be impulse disinhibition, incontinence, inability to recognize loved ones, and even self-recognition in a mirror. Restlessness and anxiety are also common, as are problems with insomnia and lack of response to pain or aversion. The subject is generally found bedridden and dumb. In this last stage, which ends in death, the subject is totally dependent on the environment so that he needs someone to carry out basic activities of daily living and even to survive.

      Life expectancy in patients with Alzheimer’s disease

      We have seen that the deterioration process that a person with Alzheimer’s disease suffers gradually unfolds, until it reaches bedding and finally death. The time between symptom onset and death can vary widely from person to personTalking about a specific life expectancy can therefore be complex. However, the average time between them, the life expectancy of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, usually varies between eight and ten years.

      However, it should also be borne in mind that this figure is only an average that we must take as an approximation: there are cases where death occurred much earlier or, on the contrary, people who lived up to two more decades since the onset of the crisis. symptoms. Thus, we cannot fully determine how long a person will survive with this disease.

      Many factors can affect the prognosis of life. One of them is that keeping the mind active and keeping the person stimulated helps to prolong the time during which they maintain their functions, which helps to slow the progression of the disease and improve the quality of person’s life. nobody. Lack of physical and mental activity, on the other hand, facilitates their progression. There are also drugs that, in principle, help and promote the functioning of memory.

      In addition to this, it is also important to be able to have a social support network that is able to maintain and support the subject (although it is also important that the caregivers also have their own space for themselves). for the help you need.

      Another factor to take into account when evaluating the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on life expectancy is the age of onset of the disease. Keep in mind that if we are thinking of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common is to do it in an elderly person, there are also cases where it appears early.

      In general, people who have early or presenile forms of Alzheimer’s disease, that is, who begin to experience symptoms and are diagnosed before the age of 65, tend to have a worse prognosis. and the different stages of the disease usually come on very quickly. . On the other hand, the late onset of the disorder has the effect of reducing life expectancy.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Förstl, H. and Kurz, A, (1999). Clinical features of Alzheimer’s disease. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience 249 (6): 288-290.
      • Petersen RC (2007). The current state of mild cognitive impairment: what are we telling our patients ?. Nat Clin Pract Neurol 3 (2): 60-1.
      • Sants, JL; Garcia, LI; Calderon, MA; Sanz, LJ; of rivers, P .; Left, S .; Román, P .; Hernangómez, L .; Navas, E .; Lladre, A and Álvarez-Cienfuegos, L. (2012). Clinical Psychology. CEDE PIR preparation manual, 02. CEDE. Madrid.

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