LIFESTYLE
10/05/2018 09:48 BST | Updated 10/05/2018 10:44 BST

What Is Alzheimer's Disease? Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment Explained

Dame Barbara Windsor's husband has revealed she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2014.

Dame Barbara Windsor’s husband has revealed she has Alzheimer’s disease. The actor was diagnosed in 2014, but has kept her illness a secret for the past four years.

In an interview with The Sun, Scott Mitchell said: “Since her 80th birthday last August, a definite continual confusion has set in, so it’s becoming a lot more difficult for us to hide.”

According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, 850,000 people in the UK are living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia today. In light of Barbara’s sad news, here’s what you need to know about the disease.

[READ MORE: Dame Barbara Windsor diagnosed with Alzheimer’s]

Mike Marsland via Getty Images

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia - a progressive disease affecting the function of the brain.

Th terms “Alzheimer’s” and “dementia” are sometimes used interchangeably, but previously speaking to HuffPost UK, Professor Graham Stokes, Bupa’s global director for Dementia Care, explained the difference between the two: “In a nutshell, dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms that affect your mental cognitive skills, like memory and communication.

“Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is one of the diseases that can cause dementia. It’s by far the most common, accounting for about two thirds of all dementia cases, which is why people often get the two confused.”

What causes Alzheimer’s disease? 

According to the NHS, the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown, but the following are thought to increase your risk of developing the condition: 

  • Reaching older age

  • A family history of the condition

  • Previous severe head injuries

  • Lifestyle factors and conditions associated with heart disease

Alzheimer’s disease is most common in people over the age of 65, but is can affect much younger people, usually from the age of 30. In these cases the illness is referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease

What are the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is often associated with loss of memory, but changes in behaviour or personality can also be warning signs. 10 symptoms to look out for are:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
4. Confusion with time or place
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spacial relationships
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
8. Decreased or poor judgment
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
10. Changes in mood and personality

How is Alzheimer’s disease treated?

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but if you believe you or a loved one are suffering, you should visit your GP as soon as possible who may be able to prescribe drugs to slow the progression of some symptoms. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, it’s also beneficial for a person who has been diagnosed to continue with hobbies they enjoy in order to keep their minds active. “Many people benefit from exercising their mind with reading or puzzles,” the charity recommends.