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Alzheimer's Disease

Definition


Disease: Alzheimer's Disease Alzheimer's Disease
Category: Neurological diseases
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Disease Definition:

Healthy brain tissue degenerates in Alzheimer’s disease, causing a steady decline in memory and mental abilities.
It is the most common cause of dementia, which is the loss of intellectual and social abilities that is severe enough to interfere with daily functioning. It is not a part of normal aging and the risk of this disorder increases with age. Although only about 5% of the people between 65 and 74 have Alzheimer's disease, nearly half of the people over 85 have Alzheimer's.

Treatments can improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer's, however, there's still no cure for this disease.
People who suffer from Alzheimer's, in addition to those who care for them need affection and support from family and friends to cope.

Work Group:


Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms:

Although this disease may start with confusion and slight memory loss, eventually it will lead to an irreversible mental impairment that destroys a person's ability to remember, learn, reason and imagine.

Even though everyone has occasional lapses in memory, like forgetting where they put their keys or forgetting the names of people whom they rarely see, the memory problems in Alzheimer's disease persist and worsen. Somebody who suffers from Alzheimer's may:

 

  • Repeat things
  • Routinely misplace things, usually putting them in illogical places.
  • Forget conversations or appointments.
  • Have problems with abstract thinking.
  • Forget the names of everyday objects and family members.
  • Have problems in balancing their checkbook, which progresses to having trouble in recognizing and dealing with numbers.


Have difficulty in finding the right word: It is very difficult for someone with Alzheimer's to find the right words to express thoughts or follow conversation. This will eventually affect their reading and writing skills.
Having a sense of disorientation: They often lose their sense of time and dates and find themselves lost in familiar surroundings.
Have difficulty in performing familiar tasks: As the disease progresses, routine tasks that require sequential steps become a struggle, such as cooking and eventually they may forget how to do even the most basic things.
Loss of judgment: People with Alzheimer's disease have great difficulty in doing things that require decision making, planning and judgment, which makes solving everyday problems increasingly difficult, such as knowing what to do when the food on the stove is burning.

Some of the personality changes that someone with Alzheimer’s may experience include:

 

  • Social withdrawal
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Distrust in others
  • Aggressiveness
  • Depression
  • Increased stubbornness

Causes:

No one factor seems to cause Alzheimer's disease, yet scientists believe that it takes a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors to trigger the onset of symptoms.
Alzheimer's disease damages and kills brain cells. Two types of neuron (brain cell) damage are common in people who have this disease:

Plaques:
Beta-amyloid is a harmless protein, but sometimes, clumps of this harmless protein interferes with communication between brain cells. The primary cause of neuron death is not known yet, but evidence shows that the responsible factor may be the abnormal processing of beta-amyloid protein.

Tangles:
The normal functioning of a protein called tau is what the internal support structure for brain cells depends on. In people suffering from Alzheimer's threads of this tau protein undergo alterations causing them to become twisted, which may seriously damage neurons and cause them to die.

Complications

Complications:

People with Alzheimer's could lose all ability to care for themselves, a thing that makes them more susceptible to other health problems, such as:

Injuries from falls:
They could become disoriented, making them more liable to the risk of falls, which can lead to fractures. Falls are also a common cause of serious head injuries such as bleeding in the brain.

Infections:
The placement of a urinary catheter in someone with urinary incontinence increases the risk of urinary tract infections, which, if left untreated, may lead to more serious and life-threatening infections.

Pneumonia:
Inhaling (aspirating) food and drink into the airways and lungs because of the difficulty of swallowing food and liquids may lead to pneumonia.

Treatments:

Although someone with Alzheimer’s may be prescribed drugs to improve the signs and symptoms that accompany this disease, such as wandering, sleeplessness, agitation, anxiety and depression, no cure has been found for the disease yet.

There are only two drugs that have proven to slow the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's:
 
Memantine :
This drug protects brain cells from damage caused by the chemical messenger glutamate and is sometimes used with a cholinesterase inhibitor. Although it seems to increase agitation and delusional behavior in some people, its most common side effect is dizziness. This is the first approved drug to treat moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer's.

Cholinesterase inhibitors:
These are a group of medications that improve the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Some examples are rivastigmine , galantamine  and donepezil . These drugs don't work for everyone. Half the people that take them show no improvement, and other people choose to stop taking these drugs because of their side effects, which include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Prognosis:

Not Available

Expert's opinion

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