Alzheimers Disease

The second most feared disease behind cancer

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a disease that takes place in the brain, but affects many parts of your body. In AD, plaques develop in the hippocampus, a structure in the brain that helps to store memories, and in other areas of the cerebral cortex that are used in thinking and making decisions. The primary cause of Alzheimer's disease, which is marked by dementia and cognitive decline, seem to be sticky brain deposits that are called beta amyloid plaques, which can build up between nerve cells. There are many stages of alzheimer's disease. Mild, moderate, severe, and the end stage. In the end stage of alzheimer's, patients may be in bed much or all of the time.


Why did I choose this Disease?

The reason that I researched alzheimers, is because my great grandmother has it. She is 94 years old, and developed alzheimers in her 90’s. She has mild alzheimers, and has all of the symptoms of it. She lives on her own, but my uncle checks in on her a lot to help her do things during the day. She has a lot of trouble recognizing a lot of my family, and gets a lot of people confused. She has trouble with language also, and she sometimes speaks in french and sometimes speaks in english, and my uncle has to translate for everyone. She also has delusions and hallucinations. A few months ago she thought people were coming into her house and singing in her living room at night. She had to have an alarm system installed so she would feel safer in her house, but she still thought people were coming into her house. She also has most of the other symptoms of moderate alzheimer’s disease.



What Parts of the Body are Affected by Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's affects:


  • The central nervous system
  • The digestive system
  • The neuromuscular system



When you have alzheimer's, this disease takes over the part of your brain that controls thinking. Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, Canada says, “the basis for your ability to think in complex ways, control attention, and do everything we think of as uniquely human thought."


So, when someone has alzheimers, it affects a lot of what they do daily, especially since the brain controls everything you do. People who are affected by alzheimer's usually have difficulty or need help doing normal everyday tasks.



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Who is Affected by it?

Alzheimer's disease usually occurs in older people that are over the age of 60. Signs of alzheimer's can show up in middle aged people, but can develop in the brain 10 to 20 years before any symptoms occur.


Any gender can be affected by alzheimer's, but women have a higher genetic risk of developing it. Any race can also be affected by alzheimer's, but some studuies show that African Americans have a higher risk of developing the disease.

How Does This Condition Arise?

Alzheimer's is a very spontaneous disease, and can arise from many different things. Alzheimer's is caused by amyloid plaques building up in the brain, in between nerve cells and in the hippocampus. There are many risk factors that have to do with getting alzheimers, and different types of the disease. There is early onset alzheimers disease, which is the rarer type, and can occur in people that are as young as 30. Other than that, alzheimer’s is usually associated with old age, and develops in people that are usually sixty and older.


Amyloid Plaques and Neurofibrillary Tangles

In the picture to the right, it shows what the inside of the brain looks like when someone develops alzheimer's. It compares what a person's brain look slike normally, and with alzheimer's.


What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Memory problems are usually one of the first signs of the development of alzheimer’s disease. A decline in other aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may also signal the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.


There are many symptoms of alzheimer’s disease, and four different stages of it. There is mild, moderate, severe and the end stage of alzheimer's disease.


Mild Alzheimer's Disease

Symptoms of mild AD can include the following;


  • Memory loss

  • Confusion about the location of familiar places

  • Taking longer to accomplish normal, daily tasks

  • Trouble handling money and paying bills

  • Compromised judgment, often leading to bad decisions

  • Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative

  • Mood and personality changes; increased anxiety


Moderate Alzheimer's Disease

Symptoms of moderate AD can include the following;


  • Increasing memory loss and confusion

  • Shortened attention span

  • Problems recognizing friends and family members

  • Difficulty with language; problems with reading, writing, working with numbers

  • Difficulty organizing thoughts and thinking logically

  • Inability to learn new things or to cope with new or unexpected situations

  • Restlessness, agitation, anxiety, fearfulness, wandering, especially in the late afternoon or at night

  • Repetitive statements or movement; occasional muscle twitches

  • Hallucinations, delusions, suspiciousness or paranoia, irritability
  • Loss of impulse control: Shown through behavior such as undressing at inappropriate times or places or vulgar language

  • Perceptual-motor problems: Such as trouble getting out of a chair or setting the table


Severe Alzheimer's Disease

Symptoms of severe AD can include the following;

  • Patients with severe AD cannot recognize family or loved ones and cannot communicate in any way. They are completely dependent on others for care, and all sense of self seems to vanish.

  • Weight loss

  • Seizures, skin infections, difficulty swallowing

  • Groaning, moaning, or grunting

  • Increased sleeping

  • Lack of bladder and bowel control


End Stage Alzheimer's

In end stage alzheimer's disease, patients will most likely be in bed all or most of the time. They won't be able to do anything by themselves, and will need help during the day. End stage alzheimer's disease will usually end in death. Death can be the result of alzeimer's, or other diseases that are associate with getting alzheimer's, such as pneumonia.


How is Alzheimer's Diagnosed?

Means of diagnosing AD include the following:

  • Lumbar puncture: levels of tau and phosphorylated tau in the cerebrospinal fluid are often raised in AD, but amyloid levels are usually low; at present, however, routine measurement of CSF tau and amyloid is not recommended except in research settings.

  • Imaging studies: Imaging studies are particularly important for ruling out potentially treatable causes of progressive cognitive decline, such as chronic subdural hematoma or normal-pressure hydrocephalus
  • The family or friends of the person can usually suspect the onset of alzheimer's, by how they're acting. there are many signs that show someone is developing alzheimer's.


What is the Treatment of Alzheimer's?

There is treatment that does not get rid of the disease, or stop it, but the goals of it are to:

  • Slow the progression of the disease (although this is difficult to do)

  • Manage symptoms, such as behavior problems, confusion, and sleep problems

  • Change your home environment so you can better perform daily activities

  • Support family members and other caregivers

DRUG TREATMENT

  • Medicines are used to help slow down the rate of symptoms becoming worse. The benefit from these drugs is usually small. The patient and their family might not notice a lot of change.


What is the Prognosis of Alzheimer's?

Most people get alzheimer’s in their 60’s, but the age can range much higher, to a different type of alzheimer's that people can get in their 30’s. The people who have that rare type of alzheimer's, could have much less time to live than people with normal alzheimer’s. If the disease gets severe, there isn’t any way to tell how long that can take, then they can die quickly after they are diagnosed, or a very long time. If someone lives with alzheimer’s, the disease may never get bad, and the patient may not die from it.


The people who die from this disease usually have severe alzheimer's disease, or are in end stage alzheimer’s.


If someone does die from alzheimer’s, they would have to have sever alzheimer's, or be in the end stage. If someone has end stage alzheimer's, they will be in bed a lot of the time, and you will usually die from another disease.



Works Cited


"Alzheimer Disease ." Alzheimer Disease. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.

Dell'Amore, Christine. "To Stave Off Alzheimer's, Learn a Language?" National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 18 Feb. 2011. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.

"Discovery Health." Discovery Fit and Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2013.

Landau, Elizabeth. "Alzheimer's: Early Detection, Risk Factors Are Crucial." CNN. Cable News Network, 25 July 2011. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.

"National Center for Biotechnology Information." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2013.

"National Institute on Aging | The Leader in Aging Research." National Institute on Aging. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.

"Tips and Advice to Help You Live Better." LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.


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