Alzheimer’s disease (AD)

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), also known in medical literature as Alzheimer disease, is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death. It was first described by German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906 and was named after him.

Most often, AD is diagnosed in people over 65 years of age, although the less-prevalent early-onset Alzheimer’s can occur much earlier. In 2006, there were 26.6 million sufferers worldwide. Alzheimer’s is predicted to affect 1 in 85 people globally by 2050.

Although Alzheimer’s disease develops differently for every individual, there are many common symptoms. Early symptoms are often mistakenly thought to be ‘age-related’ concerns, or manifestations of stress. In the early stages, the most common symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events. When AD is suspected, the diagnosis is usually confirmed with tests that evaluate behaviour and thinking abilities, often followed by a brain scan if available.

As the disease advances, symptoms can include confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings, trouble with language, and long-term memory loss. As the sufferer declines they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Since the disease is different for each individual, predicting how it will affect the person is difficult. AD develops for an unknown and variable amount of time before becoming fully apparent, and it can progress undiagnosed for years. On average, the life expectancy following diagnosis is approximately seven years. Fewer than three percent of individuals live more than fourteen years after diagnosis.

The cause and progression of Alzheimer’s disease are not well understood. Research indicates that the disease is associated with plaques and tangles in the brain. Current treatments only help with the symptoms of the disease. There are no available treatments that stop or reverse the progression of the disease. As of 2012, more than 1000 clinical trials have been or are being conducted to find ways to treat the disease, but it is unknown if any of the tested treatments will work. Mental stimulation, exercise, and a balanced diet have been suggested as ways to delay symptoms in healthy older individuals, but there is no conclusive evidence supporting an effect.

The most common form of the disease, which strikes after age 65, is linked to the apolipoprotein E (apoE) gene on chromosome 19. Scientists don’t know how apoE4 increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. They do know that everyone has apoE, which comes in three forms. One of the forms (apoE4) increases a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The other two forms seem to protect against the disease. While people who inherit the apoE4 form of the gene are at increased risk for the disease, they will not necessarily develop it.

Mutations in genes found on chromosomes 1, 14, and 21 are linked to rarer forms of the disease, which strike earlier in life.

How do people get Alzheimer’s disease?

Scientists don’t know exactly how people develop Alzheimer’s, but they believe it is caused by a combination of genes and environmental factors (multifactorial disorder). The early-onset forms of Alzheimer’s are inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means that only one parent has to pass down a defective copy of the gene for their child to develop the disorder.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?

Because Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells, people who have the disorder slowly lose their ability to think clearly. At first, they may forget words or names, or have trouble finding things. As the disorder worsens, they may forget how to do simple tasks (such as walking to a friend’s house or brushing their hair). Some people with Alzheimer’s also feel nervous or sad.

How do doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s disease?

There is no one test for Alzheimer’s. Doctors use several different tests to check a patient’s memory, language skills, and problem solving abilities. These tests don’t diagnose Alzheimer’s, but they can rule out other disorders that have similar symptoms.

How is Alzheimer’s disease treated?

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but a few medicines can slow its symptoms. A drug called Aricept increases the amount of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain. A new medicine, Namenda, protects brain cells from a chemical called glutamate, which can damage nerve cells. Doctors may also give their Alzheimer’s patients antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicines to ease some of their symptoms. In some states, medical marijuana is also used to alleviate some of the symptoms of the disease. If you’re in Ohio, you may want to find medical marijuana doctors near me who can help you out for this purpose and for many other ailments.

People with Alzheimer’s often need a caregiver – someone to help them get around and do the things they were once able to do themselves. Some families find it helps to seek help from alzheimers assisted living facility who will support you and care for the member of the family suffering.

Alzheimer’s was named after the German doctor, Alois Alzheimer, who first named the disorder in 1906.

The older a person gets, the higher his or her risk of getting Alzheimer’s. Only about 1 or 2 people out of 100 have Alzheimer’s at age 65; whereas, one out of every five people has the disorder by age 80. As many as 4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.

Because AD cannot be cured and is degenerative, the sufferer relies on others for assistance. The role of the main caregiver is often taken by the spouse or a close relative. Alzheimer’s disease is known for placing a great burden on caregivers; the pressures can be wide-ranging, involving social, psychological, physical, and economic elements of the caregiver’s life. In developed countries, AD is one of the most costly diseases to society.


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