As a new era dawns upon us many people find themselves asking the question; "What is Alzheimer's Disease?" Alzheimer's Disease today affects almost all people in some way. Since the amount of lives this disease affects continues to increase epidemiologists have named Alzheimer's Disease, "The Disease of the Century".
In 1906 a German neurologist Alois Alzheimer performed a neurological autopsy on a 56-year-old woman who had suffered deteriorating mental health for many years before her death. Alzheimer noticed a disorganization of nerve cells in her cerebral cortex, the area of the brain responsible for controlling memory and reasoning. There were two oddities he found. The first was an accumulation of cellular debris surrounding the nerves he called this senile plaque. The second oddity were groups of nerves that were bunched and twisted he called this neurofibrillary tangles. In the following years as more autopsies were conducted the same oddities that were found in 1906 were found in patients displaying the same symptoms. At that time a prestigious German psychiatrist, Emil Kraepelin, proposed naming the disease in honor of its discoverer Alois Alzheimer. (http://www.Alzheimers.com)
Alzheimer's Disease is a chronic brain disorder that destroys one's ability to reason, remember, imagine and learn. The disease is also known as "senile dementia" or "pre-senile dementia". Dementia refers to the lost of mental health. The term "senile" means old. "Pre-Senile" refers to those patients less than 65 years of age. (http://www.alzheimers.com)
Lesions on brain cells that take the form of senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles cause Alzheimer's Disease. Healthy brain tissue is normally arranged in an organized pattern. These knots and tangles throw the brain into mass confusion taking over and destroying healthy brain tissue. This causes the brain cells to stop functioning. Recently a protein Tau has been discovered in these tangles and knots. This protein is found in healthy brain cells, but is found in much larger quantities surrounding areas affected by this disease. Other ailments have been linked to the onset of the disease. These include head trauma, problems with the immune system, blood cancer, thyroid problems and Down's Syndrome. (Frank, 1985)
There are four distinct stages of progression. The progression of Alzheimer's can take from three to fourteen years. This time span is based on the time from diagnosis to death. All patients go through these stages just at different rates.
The first stage of Alzheimer's the patient experiences a slowing down of many factors of behavior. They have less energy, slow to learn new things, and their reaction time decreases. Patients experience only mild forgetfulness of recent events, familiar people and places. They have a decrease in judgment, and trust. Also, they become increasingly stubborn and restless. Many people are unaware of the presence of a disease because frequently memory loss is common in the elderly due to fatigue or a period of sickness. (http://www.ahaf.org/alzdis/about/adsymp_body.html); (http://www.alzheimers.com)
In the second stage the patient becomes increasingly forgetful and has more trouble recalling recent occurrences. They have difficulty in skills such as decision making, planning and judgment. The patient's speech and comprehension become much slower and often loose their train of thought often. They are usually able to complete common tasks but need assistance with more complicated ones. They must be given clear and repeated instructions by caregivers. Victims start to become aware of illness and become depressed, irritable, restless, and socially withdrawn. (http://www.ahaf.org/alzdis/about/adsymp_body.html); (http://www.alzheimers.com)
In the third stage Alzheimer patients loose all ability to recognize familiar people and places. They have trouble completing simple everyday tasks like eating, bathing, getting dressed and using...
Cited: Beckelman, Laurie. (1990). The Facts About Alzheimer 's Disease. New York: Crestwood House.
Frank, Julia. (1985). Alzheimer 's Disease: The Silent Epidemic. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications.
Harmon, Dan. (1999). Life Out Of Focus: Alzheimer 's Disease and Related Disorders. Philadelphia: Chelsea House
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