Alzheimer's disease leads to a drastic fall in the capabilities of the brain, associated with 'memory', therefore much of our research and strategies have focused on tackling such issues; it was a forgone conclusion that patients suffering Alzheimer's do not suffer pain.
A pioneering effort by researchers at Melbourne's Howard Florey Institute has dispelled the fallacy about Alzheimer's and the sensation of pain. The findings of the study have been published in the journal Brain.
Most Alzheimer's' patients do not complain of pain. Why? Researchers understand that pain is felt essentially in two parts of the brain. In one part, it manifests as a fundamental and lateral pain, whereas in the second part, the pain is associated with emotion that manifests as a feeling of discomfort. It was believed that in patient's suffering this disease, the emotional part had taken a beating, leading to suppression of the expression of pain.
This finding was examined on 14 patients- the thumbnails were subject to pressure inducing pain, and the reaction in the brain was compared with the reaction of normal people, using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner.
The experiment revealed that both groups displayed similar levels of activity in both regions of the bran, suggesting that Alzheimer's patients do not suffer any handicap in the regions associated with pain.
Dr Farrell, from the research team said, "In fact, they may even be experiencing more distress due to impaired ability to understand the unpleasant sensation. Problems with their mind and memory mean they quite literally forget they had terrible pain very recently so if a doctor asks, they'll say they're fine."
The results are indeed a clue to healthcare experts and care providers to be tuned in to patients' sensation of pain, so that treatment measures are not left wanting in the area of pain management.