ALzheimers Disease

By: Bridget Hill

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What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disorder that takes place inside of the brain. The disorder attacks brain cells causing minor or severe memory loss and many behavioral changes. The parts of the brain most effected are the parts that control thought, memory, and language as shown in the picture at the right. It is known as single gene mutations on chromosomes. This is why it only effects certain parts of the brain. The disease is most commonly diagnosed in people of the age 65 or older but can also occur in younger people. The disease worsens as the person gets older and can also lead to dementia. It is known as one of the top 10 leading causes of deaths in the United States.

History

People have been aware of Alzheimer's disease since 1906. It has been around long before that but had not yet been discovered. It was first discovered by a German Physician, Dr. Alois Alzheimer. He studied this case in a 51-year old woman that passed away after living with a rare brain disorder. This discover lead to further information and better diagnosis.

Warning Signs

There are many things that can be considered warning signs of Alzheimer's disease. These are ways that someone can predict if a person has Alzheimer's disease without an actual diagnosis. Although someone may portray some of these signs, it doesn't mean that they definitely have Alzheimer's disease. The only way to know for sure is through medical tests and thorough monitoring of the person.

  • Memory loss of things such as recent events and names.
  • Misplacement of objects
  • Trouble with familiar tasks such as brushing of teeth and getting dressed
  • Trouble following conversations
  • Changes in mood and personality

Diagnosis

Many things can be done to determine if someone has Alzheimer's disease. People have found that the most accurate way to know is by preforming an autopsy after the person has passed away. Although it is not always accurate, others tests and assessments are preformed to see if someone is affected by Alzheimer's disease. For example, doctors and scientists can use a persons medical history to preform lab tests. Also, medical assessments such as physical exams and brain scans can help people come to a conclusion. Brain assessments to measure memory, attention, language skills and problem solving abilities are also preformed. Lastly, scientists will often test the fluid surrounding the persons brain and spinal cord to determine if they are suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The picture below and to right show the significant damage that Alzheimer's disease does to a persons brain.
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Symtoms

There are symptoms that someone portrays when they are living with Alzheimer's. The following are only some examples.

  • Short term memory loss
  • Poor judgement
  • Change in mood and behavior
  • Misplacing items
  • Unable to do familiar tasks such as brushing teeth or getting dressed
  • Trouble following conversations
  • Repetition of questions in a short period of time
  • Trouble completing tasks with numbers or critical thinking such as card games.

What causes Alzheimer's disease?

The definite cause of Alzheimer's disease has not been determined but most people believe the disease is passed down through generations. For example, if your mother has Alzheimer's disease you have a possibly of also developing the disease. This is shown in the pedigree below. It is also said that high blood pressure and high cholesterol may increase the risk of someone developing Alzheimer's disease. Changes within the body also have an effect. For example, twisted fibers within nerve cells can have an impact how certain parts of the brain function. Also, deposits of protein fragments known as plaques can block the spaces in nerve cells, sometimes causing people to have Alzheimer's disease.
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Treatment

There is no cure to Alzheimer's disease but they have developed some medications that can help with various symptoms. The following medications do not cure a person, but will help them cope with it.

  • CholInesterase inhibitors for mild-moderate Alzheimer's disease.
  • NMDA receptor antagonist for severe Alzheimer's disease