Alzheimer's Disease

By: Gwen Brennan

The Start to Alzheimer's

In 1901, Dr. Alois Alzheimers met Auguste Deter, a 51-year-old woman with strange behavior symptoms and increasing short-term memory loss. Her condition rapidly deteriorated into severe dementia, memory loss. The patient would become his obsession over the coming years. In 1906, Auguste Deter died, and Alzheimer had her patient records and brain brought to Kraepelin's lab in Munich. During an autopsy, or an examination to see what caused the death, Alzheimer identified a number of pathological conditions, conditions that caused the disease, including shrinking of the cortex, the brain's wrinkled surface, and the presence of neurofibrillary tangles, made up of twisted strands of another protein, and neurotic plaques, abnormal clusters of protein fragments, that build up between nerve cells. The plaques and tangles were distinctive enough to warrant a diagnosis of senile dementia, memory loss, which became known as Alzheimer's disease.

How This Disease Can Affect Someone's Life

Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. This disease can cause people to forget things that happened just a second ago. Someone with this disease may do crazy things and not know they are are in danger. For example, they might wander outside in the middle of the night when it is freezing outside in slippers and pajamas. Some people may also know what year they were born, where they live, and even know their name but not know what the current year is. If someone has this disease a the age of 80 or older then they have 3 or 4 years left to live. But if they are younger then they have 10 or more years left.


  • memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • challenges in planning or solving problems
  • difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or at leisure
  • confusion with time or place
  • trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • new problems with words in speaking or writing
  • misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • deceased or poor judgment
  • withdrawal from work or school activities
  • changes in mood or personality

Chances of Getting This Disease

Alzheimers is very common among older people. Nearly 15% of people 71 years old or older get this disorder. Approximately 3.8 million Americans currently experience symptoms of it. Researchers have not found a specific gene that directly causes the late- onset form of the disease. One genetic risk factor, having one form of apolipoprotein E gene on chromosome 19, does increase a persons risk. Apolipoproteins are proteins that blind lipids to form lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are molecules made of proteins and fat. People that are older usually get Alzheimers. Also if they are a female, they have a better risk because women tend to live longer than males. And chances with this disorder increases with age. People with a family member who has Alzheimer's will most likely develop this disease.
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Diagnostic Tests That Are Performed To Determine if Someone Has This Disease

  • Mini- mental state exam (MMSE)
  • Mini-cog
  • Mood Assesment
  • Neurological Exam
  • Genetic Testing
  • Physical Exam and Diagnostic Test
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Organizations That Help Individuals With This Particular Disease

  • Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center
  • Alzheimer's Association
  • Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation
  • John Douglas French Alzheimer's Foundation
  • Alzheimer's Foundation of America
  • National Institute of Mental Health
  • Alois Alzheimer Center
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Is There a Cure?

Scientists are still trying to find a cure to this disease/disorder. They don't know how long it will take to find one, it may take 10 years or they might find one tomorrow. They might not even find one at all but you will never know.