Alzheimer`s Disease (AD) is one of the most common of the dementing illnesses. A progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the brain, causing impaired memory, thinking and behavior. A person with Alzhiemers Disease may experience personality and behavior changes, impaired judgment, confusion and difficulty finishing thoughts, following directions or even finding the right word to say in a conversation.
Once advanced the sufferer may require a caretaker as daily chores become very difficult to accomplish. Evidence points toward amyloid as one of the main causes for the occurring cytotoxic processes. Researchers have found that degeneration appears to be caused by interference with intracellular calcium homeostasis via activation of calcium channels, intracellular calcium stores, and further production of free radicals by calcium-sensitive enzymes. The glutamatergic system seems to be involved in mediating the toxic processes. In the brain, the nerve cells in the part that controls memory and thinking are damaged, this interrupts the passage of messages between communicating cells.
The cells undergo distinctive changes, these are called neuritic plaques (groups of degenerating nerve cell ends) and neurofibrillary tangles (groups of twisted filaments which accumulate in previously healthy nerve cells). The cortex (used for thinking) of the brain shrinks, the spaces in the center of the brain become enlarged causing reduction of the surface area in the brain. Symptoms of AD usually occur in older adults and are the ones most at risk, although people in their 40s and 5Os may also be affected. The symptoms include a loss of intellectual capacity, loss of language skills which may include having trouble finding words, poor or decreased judgment, problems with abstract thinking, disorientation in place and time, changes in mood or behavior and changes in personality. AD does not discriminate, it affects any race, socio background or sex equally.
The classic symptom of forgetfulness is part of the normal aging process and usually begins in early middle age, however, normal forgetfulness differs from Alzheimer’s Disease in many important ways. The cause of Alzheimer’s Disease is not exactly known. Suspected causes undergoing research are neurological damage, chemical deficiencies, viruses, environmental toxins and malfunctions in the body’s disease defense systems and genetics. There is also evidence of a slightly increased risk of heridity of AD amongst children, brothers and sisters of patients with this disease.
It is also important to note that AD can only be diagnosed 100% after death through an autopsy of the affected subjects brain tissue. About a third of autopsies turn up a different diagnosis and thus family members are encouraged to ask for an autopsy as a contribution to the study of the disease and about the genetics of AD. There is no single clinical test for AD. It is usually diagnosed by ruling out all other curable or incurable causes of memory loss.
A positive diagnosis of this disease can only be made by microscopically studying a small piece of brain tissue after death. The cerebral cortex of an Alzheimer sufferers brain will have characteristic abnormalities such as cells marred by plaques and tangles. A working diagnosis can be made though through various testing procedures that include a complete physical as well as neurological and psychological examinations. At this time there is no definite cure or treatment for AD, although there are many suppliers of products which claim to help sufferers, but the products are more like over-priced placebos with no documented evidence of alleviation of the illness amongst sufferers, but glutamate receptor-selective drugs, some antioxidants, nitric oxide synthase inhibitors, calcium channel antagonists, receptor or enzyme inhibitors, and growth factors promise future help in curing this disease. Combinations of drugs that act at different levels may also prolong the sufferers life/health. People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease can live anywhere from 2 to 20 years after memory loss symptoms start to surface.
It shortens the sufferers expected life span, but through appropriate care and medical attention the patients oftenlive for many years. Death can’t usually be predicted until the end stages where symptoms are nearing their worse. Some patients in late or terminal-stage Alzheimer’s tend to lose weight and have difficulty swallowing, difficulties with bladder control, walking and talking. They are also known to curl into a fetal position.
Sufferers most often die through a series of repeated infections such as bladder infections or pneumonia. Although the following estimations are from American literature, as explained earlier we know that AD has a more or less universal effect amongst the populations, ratio wise. Alzheimer’s afflicts approximately 4,000,000 Americans and it’s estimated that one in three of us may have a relative that will suffer from this degenerative disease. More than 100,000 die annually which makes AD the fourth largest cause of adult death in the US.
It is also a very costly disease monatary wise in that about half of the patients in nursing homes have this illness with an estimated $80 billion spent annually on the care of, diagnosis, treatment, etc. People who suffer from AD often require 24-hour care and supervision, this is mostly provided by family and friends in a home. Bibliography Bliss T. V.
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