Thursday, September 19, 2013

Alzheimer'S Disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most frequently seen cause of dementia in the elderly population, with over half of all people over the age of 85 diagnosed. It is estimated that 1 in 20 people between the ages of 65 and 74 have Alzheimer's disease. Because Alzheimer's disease negatively affects memory and mental functions, it is difficult for someone dealing with Alzheimer's disease to function in society. In the United States there are over 5 million people suffering from Alzheimer's and this fatal ailment is the 6th leading cause of death in the US. There is no cure for Alzheimer's and treatments focus on improving a person's quality of life.

Plaques and tangles

The causes of Alzheimer's disease seem to be related to plaques and tangles that damage nerve cells in the brain and result in poor brain function. Plaques are small clumps of a protein called beta-amyloid that short-circuit the inter-cell communication system. Tangles are jumbled up strands of a needed protein found in brain cells. Alzheimer's disease is present when that protein begins to kill brain cells.

Memory loss

The early stages of Alzheimer's disease will feature memory loss but it will not be so significant that it will be easily noticed. Sufferers of Alzheimer's will often repeat sentences and begin to forget important appointments or previous conversations. As the disease progresses so will memory loss. In time, people with Alzheimer's disease forget most aspects of their life. Someone with late stage Alzheimer's disease will probably not even recognize their own spouse or children, making this an incredibly difficult aspect of the illness to deal with. Any memories that someone at this point in the ailment has will more than likely be from long ago in their life, with the very real possibility that the person will totally lose track of what decade it is.

More symptoms

Besides loss of memory there are several other problems that will show up. An individual with Alzheimer's can have problems dealing with numbers. Abstract thinking will also be a chore. He will struggle and struggle to find the right word during a conversation and he may also have difficulty reading and writing down a line. She will lose the ability to realize what time it is or what day it may be. Something as simple and obvious as shutting off the water when taking a bath may be a problem too hard to solve for someone with this malady, showing a complete loss of judgment.

Personality changes

The Alzheimer's patient can develop any number of character traits that they did not possess before the disease took its toll on their mental faculties. Mood swings are common, going from highs to lows in a short period of time. The disease can result in the person becoming stubborn, paranoid and distrustful, depressed, and constantly anxious as they fail to recognize what is happening to them. Some Alzheimer's disease patients even become aggressive and lash out against their caregivers.


Doctors will usually prescribe medications to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's. Drugs that can combat insomnia, depression, and anxiousness are commonly administered. There are two sets of drugs that seem to slow the advances of Alzheimer's. Cholinesterase inhibitors do not work in all cases but in some people they help the communications between brain cells. A drug called Memantine is used to treat advanced stages of Alzheimer's by attempting to shield brain cells from damage precipitated by certain chemicals. It is often used with cholinesterase inhibitors. Both of these treatments come with side effects such as dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

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