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This disease is categorized among the dementia diseases and it is the progressive and continuous decrease in someone's intellect. The ancient Greeks and physicians stated that as age increases, then chances of getting dementia become high. In 1901, a German physician Alois Alzheimer identified the first symptoms of the disease from a fifty year old woman known as Auguste D. Alois further followed this case until 1906 when the woman died and after this case he publicly reported the disease.
This disease has been there for a long period of time dating back to 1906 when it was first detected by Alois Alzheimer who was a German physician. Alzheimer's brings about destruction of the brain cells hence causing memory loss which leads to problems in thinking which can in turn affect the work performance and also your social life. Alzheimer is a progressive and fatal brain disease as it can get worse as time passes by, and today it is ranked position seven among the deadliest diseases in the United States of America.
Effects of Alzheimer disease
This disease is the most common form of dementia which is mostly common among the old people. It usually begins at the age of 60 years and the risk of being affected with it usually goes up as one gets older. In addition the risk becomes even higher if a family member has had cases of it in the past. This disease commences at a slow rate and it first affects parts of the brain which are usually involved with the control of thought, language and memory. People who are usually affected with it have problems remembering things that have recently happened and the symptoms may progress over time to a point where the person actually forgets his own family members. Some other problems that the infected person may face include: speaking, reading and writing problems. It may even reach a point where the person requires total care as the infected person may become aggressive, anxious and even wander away from home. This may cause a lot of stress to the family members as a lot of time are spent catering for the person.
Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer disease
This is a disease that progresses from mild forgetfulness to abnormal neurological impairment and this may progress to a point where the patient actually dies. It causes chemical and structural changes in the brain which actually interferes with the normal operation of the brain, which include remembering, learning, reasoning and also relating with others. There are various signs that may enable a person to detect the early stages of infections. Such signs may include:
Communication and language difficulties - those having Alzheimer face communication and language challenges, in addition such people will have difficulty in expressing their feelings. Although it is normal to have troubles coming up with the right word to express your thoughts, those having Alzheimer do have more trouble compared to a normal person when it comes to communication.
Judgmental lapses- those having Alzheimer may make unwise decisions relating to social, personal and financial activities for instance one may decide to put on a heavy jacket when the temperatures are high. Though it's normal to make such decisions, those having this disease may show serious lapses which are very uncharacteristic for a normal human being.
Disorientation - those having Alzheimer's may be completely disoriented such that they may forget their current place, time, month, date and even year. They may also forget where they actually live or even the country they are in (Tanzi & Parson, 2001).
Having objects misplaced - those having Alzheimer may have very serious problems of misplacing objects by putting them in very odd positions, for instance putting a toothbrush in the refrigerator.
Decline in the ability to think - those having Alzheimer may have problems completing complex tasks which they previously performed with ease. For instance in work places they may have problems performing duties which they previously did.
Changes in personality - those having Alzheimer may show changes in their personality in the sense that, the person shifts from being a self reliant and dependent person to an independent person. Although it occurs to normal person it is usually temporary compared to those having Alzheimer who show a general change in behavior.
Laziness - this is a common sign where the person experiences increased passivity. The person may sleep almost the whole day or may watch television for the most part of the day. Although it is normal for a human being to feel tired and lazy, theirs is actually prolonged and extensive.
These are the signs that someone can use to determine whether someone is actually suffering from Alzheimer's disease. There is actually a very big difference between signs of Alzheimer and challenges associated with ageing. Some of the characteristics of ageing persons may include:
A doctor can actually look upon this signs or he can also decide to check on your family's background so as to make conclusion of the patient's diagnosis. If previously one of your family members had this disease then chances of someone getting infected are very high. A doctor should take appropriate measures to differentiate this disease from other forms of dementia.
Causes of Alzheimer
The main cause of the Alzheimer is not well known. Various researchers are trying to come up with the causes of this disease so that more advanced and targeted treatments can be achieved and also find ways of preventing this disease. Most scientists have agreed that it is unlikely to have only one single cause of Alzheimer disease. They also state that this disease may have come up due to combination of various interrelated factors including the genetic factors and environmental factors. These genetic factors may include the passage of the disease along family lines of inheritance. If one family member has the disease then there is a high likelihood for other family members to get infected.
The environmental influences may include previous head trauma early in life and the educational level that one may have attained. Some scientists are also trying to determine if some of the lifestyle factors may cause one to get infected with the disease. Such lifestyle factors may include high blood pressure, high cholesterol in the body and also the type of diet one is having.
Age, family history and genetic factors are all considered as risk factors. But these risk factors cannot be controlled or influenced by an individual, due to this scientist have identified risk factors which can be influenced or controlled by an individual and which if not controlled there is a likelihood of causing Alzheimer. They include:
Head injury - There is a risk of getting infected with Alzheimer in the old ages as a result of a head injury that one acquires when he is young. Therefore this can be prevented by wearing a helmet during sporting activities.
The heart- head connection - Research has revealed that the brain health links to heart health; this is because the brain is supplied by a lot of blood from the heart which amounts to twenty to twenty five percent of the blood. Therefore the brain acquires twenty percent of food and oxygen which the blood carries. Therefore damage of the heart or blood vessels increases the chances of getting Alzheimer or vascular dementia. Such damages may include high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol level.
Healthy aging - Further study has shown that healthy aging ensures healthy growth of the brain therefore leading to minimal chances of Alzheimer infection. Some of the steps that should be undertaken to ensure healthy aging include: avoid excessive drinking, smoking, ensuring that you don't become obese, exercising regularly and socializing with other people as often as possible.
The clear thing about this disease is that it develops as a result of complex cascade of processes within someone's body. These processes take place over a long period of time within the brain. People suffering from Alzheimer disease always experience signs of memory loss, decrease in the thinking capacity and also changes in one's personality. These changes are also accompanied with the changes in the brain; such changes include the increase of tau containing neurofibrillary tangles and the amyloid plaques which are primary benchmarks of the Alzheimer disease. These changes result in the death of the brain cells and subsequent collapse of connections between the cells.
The plaques are a collection of cellular and protein material which are deposited outside and around nerve cells of the brain while the tangles build up inside the nerve cells. These tangles have a twisted fiber look. Dr. Alois Alzheimer came to discover them (plaques and tangles) in the brain of the woman who was first discovered with the disease. Research studies show that the deposition of amyloid which was in the form of plaques may have been the causes of symptoms leading to Alzheimer disease in the patient (Borda & Triggle, 2006). Due to these findings researchers believe that amyloid is the eventual target for the treatment of the disease. Further prove that supports that amyloid is the cause of the disease is the genetic studies which indicate that mutation of some genes has led to accumulation of the amyloid material.
Research shows that as the disease progresses nerve cells within the brain including those that bring about critical neurotransmission shrink and die and as the cells die the brain shrinks in size and it becomes smoother on its surface.
Treatment of Alzheimer
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer disease, scientists are making advances in trying to find out the cure of this disease. The methods that they are trying to acquire include non drug approach and medication so as to try to manage the symptoms. When they try to come with treatment plans, they always put into account the cognitive and behavioral symptoms separately.
These are symptoms that are associated with the thinking processes which include memory, judgment and language. Therefore to curb these symptoms, researchers have discovered two types of drugs which are being used to treat these symptoms and they include:
Cholinesterase inhibitors - This drug plays a very vital role in the memory and learning activities. It increases acetylcholine levels within the brain which tends to push forward the worsening of the symptoms for six to twelve months. Those having either mild or moderate symptoms of this disease are usually administered with these drugs. The drugs which are commonly administered include: Aricept, Exelon and razadyne. Since the drugs are known to have side effects the doctors must try and test the different drugs on the patient until the appropriate one is found for him (Becker & Giacobini, 1997).
Namenda - This drug is usually given to people who have severe or moderate infections of the Alzheimer disease. Depending on persons it may tend to postpone the worsening of the symptoms or it may fail to work completely. This drug has a very important role in the sense that it regulates glutamate which plays a major role in the information processing of the brain.
Once someone is detected to have Alzheimer disease the doctor administers the cholinesterase inhibitors since they are very important in the early stages. If it becomes ineffective the doctor starts administering the Namenda drug. At times the cholinesterase inhibitors are administered together with the Namenda drug and this only happens if the patient is moderately infected.
There are various behavioral symptoms exhibited by an Alzheimer patient and they include; agitation, suspicion and depression. Those giving care to such patients may have a hard time trying to control them but it is advised that they should not take the behaviors of the Alzheimer patients personally since the behavioral symptoms are as a result of the damage to the brain cells and not their free will. There are various medications that are available for these behavioral symptoms and they may include; Anti anxiety medications which can be used to relieve agitation and aggression. There is also anti psychotic medications which can be used to relieve the effects of suspicion and paranoia.
There are various risks that are associated with the administering of these drugs, as some of the patients may tend to have a reaction to the drugs and more so to those patients who have the Alzheimer disease. Therefore it is best advice that proper caution should be taken when dealing with the behavioral symptoms and also it's appropriate to provide a combination of drug and non drug treatments. These non drug treatments may involve studying the behavior of the patient, and then trying to find out what might have triggered the behavior and finally devise a plan to change the individual's environment or the type of reaction that is appropriate for the behavior. For instance if the Alzheimer patient is agitated by loud noise simply change the environment to a calmer one. Another instance can be, if the caregiver is angered by the behavioral patterns of the patient, he should try and react in a calm manner as actions to the contrary will only increase the behavioral frequency of the Alzheimer patient (Blass & Khachaturian, 2003).
Future treatments are being advanced by scientists as the current drugs are only masking the symptoms and not treating the underlying disease. The Alzheimer drug, if discovered, would treat the underlying disease or delay the damage of the cells. Many experts believe that the breakthrough is in the near future as some promising drugs are in the development and testing phase. The lack of volunteers to assist in the clinical trials and also the lack of funding for the research has hampered the achievement of this dream.