What is Alzheimer's Disease? Edit
Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive mental deterioration of the brain that can occur in middle-aged or elderly adults. This is due to generalized degeneration of the brain (when brain cells die). It impacts the memory, thinking, and behavior of an individual. Common results of Alzheimer's Disease include memory loss, as well as the inability to carry out normal daily functions and conversations, and behave as one used to before they were diagnosed. Alzheimer's is generally found in the central nervous system, which hosts the brain and spinal cord.
How does Alzheimer's Disease Affect the Nervous System? Edit
Alzheimer's disease is a disease that focuses on the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. Specific brain abnormalities have been identified in patients with the disorder. Amyloid plaques, are build-ups of specific proteins and pieces of dead brain cells, progressively accumulating in and outside the brain tissue and other nerve cells/neurons. A naturally occurring brain protein known as tau also accumulates abnormally, causing brain cells to malfunction and eventually die. (This same protein also blocks the synapses at which nerve pathways join, this blocks, slows, or halts the continuation of the signals resulting in the loss of the desired action which the signal was meant to convey.) This causes the memory loss for patients with Alzheimer’s.
Signs and Symptoms Edit
Each person with the disease affects differently. It can be challenging to predict symptoms, the order that they will appear in, and and the pace of their progression.
The signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease include the following:
• Memory loss
• Challenges in planning or solving problems
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks
• Confusion with time and/or place (disorientation)
• Trouble understanding visual images
• New problems with speaking or writing
• Misplacing things and not being able to retrace steps
• Poor judgment
• Withdrawal from work
• Changes in mood and personality
-Not managing self-care
-Impaired gait or movement
-Problems with attention or orientation
-Problems with basic mathematical tasks
Alzheimer's disease is one of the rare diseases that cannot actually be definitively diagnosed until post-mortem (after death.) Although many doctors do diagnose patients with Alzheimer's, they cannot be certain of their diagnosis, nor can they actually prove it until after the brain has been examined under a microscope (which cannot be done until after the patient's death.) Alzheimer's diagnosis is based on what is typically called a differential-diagnosis. This means that the patient is said to have Alzheimer's if, and only if, it is clear that they do not have any other diseases which could portray the same or similar symptoms. Each of these possible diseases is eliminated, and Alzheimer's can then be diagnosed as the cause of symptoms. Alzheimer’s has to be carefully diagnosed as it could easily be dementia caused by an outside source. To conduct the tests, a doctor may ask family members about the patient and their ability to remember information and any weird actions performed. They may also carry out standard medical tests and perform brain scans (CT's or MRI's) to rule out any other diseases. Alzheimer’s currently has no cure but there are some trial drugs (associated with clinical trials) being tested in order to improve the quality of life of the individual.
Some ways to prevent or delay the effects of Alzheimer's Disease include:
- Drugs (e.g. memantine)
- Creating a safe and supportive environment
- Nutrition (e.g. high-calorie, healthy shakes and smoothies)
- Alternative medicine (e.g. vitamin E)
Although there are no cures for the disease, these ways can help improve the quality of a patient's mental well being for several years.
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