Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative
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Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that causes increasing loss of memory and other mental abilities. The disease attacks few people before age sixty, but it occurs in about twenty percent of people who live to age eighty-five. The disease is named after the German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer, who first described its effects on brain cells in 1907.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease come in three stages: early, late, and advanced. Early stages include forgetfulness of recent events, increasing difficulty in performing intellectual tasks such as accustomed work, balancing a checkbook or maintaining a household. Also, personality changes, including poor impulse control and poor judgement.
Later stages include difficulty doing simple tasks, such as choosing clothing and problem solving. Also, failure to recognize familiar persons, disinterest in personal hygiene or appearance, difficulty feeding oneself, belligerence and denial that anything is wrong, loss of sexual inhibitions, wandering away, anxiety and insomnia.
Advanced stages include complete loss of memory, speech and muscle function. This includes loss of bladder and bowel control. The patients in the advanced stages need total care and supervision. They also exhibit extreme belligerence and hostility. Eventually, patients become bedridden and weak. In their weakened condition, they are vulnerable to pneumonia and other infectious diseases. Most patients die from such diseases eight to ten years after developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not certain. The disease results from the gradual destruction of brain cells, but the cause of this destruction is not fully understood. There is no known cure. Brain tissues from affected persons shows a slight excess of aluminum, but most experts regard this excess as a result rather than as a cause of brain cell death.
Genetic factors play an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease in most cases. Scientists have identified several genetic mechanisms that lead to the disease. One of these involves a mutation in a gene located on a pair of chromosomes known as chromosome 21. This gene carries the chemical instructions for producing amyloid precursor protein, a protein found in most body tissues, including the brain. A small portion of this protein forms amyloid, a waxy substance present in great excess in affected brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients. Scientists believe that the gene mutation interferes with normal processing of amyloid precursor protein, causing excessive amyloid to form. This mutation is rare. It affects only about three percent of Alzheimer’s patients, most of them between the ages of forty and sixty.
Treatment of the Alzheimer’s patients includes proper care, such as good hygiene and good nutrition. Also, a drug called tetrahydroaminoacridine may slightly slow the progress of the disease, but there is no cure.
I didn’t know much of anything about Alzheimer’s disease before I did this report. I knew that people with the disease wander into strange places and don’t know where they are. For example, an old man with Alzheimer’s wandered into PHS last year and was saying, “I have to go to school…” over and over. I learned that there is no cure for this disease and the cause is uncertain. I didn’t know that you could die from Alzheimer’s disease, I thought that you lived with it until you died from natural causes.
1. Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1997
2. IBM Worldbook Encyclopedia, 1997
3. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, 1997
4. http://www. Thriveonline.com/@@wn7eBQQApFziI8bj/thrive/health/Library/illsymp/illness9.htm
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Medicine, Alzheimers disease, Clinical medicine, Health, Dementia, Amyloidosis, Cognitive disorders, Psychiatric diagnosis, Amyloid precursor protein, Chromosome 21, Amyloid, Early-onset Alzheimers disease
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