Overview of Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease is a complex and progressive form of neurodegenerative disorder,
where patients bear symptoms of profound cognitive decline. There is still no known
cure for the Alzheimer's disease,which can either reverse or stop the affects of
this progressive degeneration. People with Alzheimer's have been found to have a
loss of an important neurotransmitter in the nerve cells. This neurotransmitter
is important in helping the electrical signals travel along the nerve pathways.
Its particular cause is currently unknown, though various analysis and research
shows a few probable causes such as family history being identified as risk factors
governing theAlzheimer's disease.
Affecting about 5 million Americans, this disease leads to permanent damage and
destroys brain cells, which causes memory problems and behavior inconsistencies
that affect one's identity, lifestyle, work and social life. Contrary to popular
belief of earlier times, Alzheimer's disease is different from normal lapses in
memory, which are associated with signs of aging. Alzheimer's gets worse over time,
and it is fatal. Today it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
The Alzheimer's disease has been identified as the most common form of dementia.
The disease was named after Alois Alzheimer, MD who in 1906 made startling and profound
revelations about this disease. The doctor reveals, "Plaques" and "Tangles"
to be the two basics of the disease. Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment
called beta-amyloid that build up in the spaces between nerve cells. Tangles are
twisted fibers of another protein called tau that build up inside cells.
It is not known exactly what role plaques and tangles play in Alzheimer's disease.
Most experts believe they somehow play a critical role in blocking communication
among nerve cells and disrupt processes the cells need to survive.
Symptoms of the Alzheimer's disease
It should be understood that though it is the aged who are most affected by the
Alzheimer's disease, there have been various cases where the young have also been
affected. This goes to say that the disease does not follow a laid out pattern,
as such the symptoms of the disease also vary from one patient to another and also
vary at different stages of the disease. There are however some common general symptoms
that have been noticed at various stages of progression. These are;
- Changes in personality and general behavioral patterns
- Confusion regarding ordinary things.
- Short-term memory problems
- Problems in retention or attention span of even the smallest things and spatial
- Unaccounted for mood swings.
- Problems in communicating with language.
Stages of the Alzheimer's disease
In stage 1 of theAlzheimer's disease patients complain of loss of energy and spontaneity,
minor memory losses or temporary mood swings, are also noticed at this time. Most
of the time the patient is confused and as a result becomes irritated, this also
leads to isolation and shyness. One notices that the patient is slow to learn anything
new and exercises poor judgment in most normal work.
In the stage 2 of Alzheimer's disease, the patient performs his
work, though he/she needs assistance with complicated activities, especially those
related to the mind. Distorted or incoherent talks, with a tendency towards getting
lost in a particular train of thought are quite common.
An alarming trend in intelligent patients is the realization of this stage, which
makes it very difficult for them because of them becoming aware of a loss of control.
This situation leads to, depression, mood fluctuations and emotional upheavals.
In the stage 3 or the final stages of the Alzheimer's disease patients often forget
or loose the ability to eat and swallow. There is a severe identity crisis and total
loss of familiar identities or near and dear ones. The patients loose bowel and
bladder control, and need constant supervision. Vulnerability to other infections
may lead to an untimely death.
Types and causes of Alzheimer's Diseases
Alzheimer's disease is often related with the onset of age has
accordingly been classified into the various types based on the
stages and the time of the onset of the disease. Some of these types classified
by stages are as follows:
Early-onset of Alzheimer's disease - this type is quite rare and
seen to affect individuals who have been diagnosed with the disease before the age
of 65. It can be noted that research shows the occurrence of the early onset of
the disease is seen in less than 10 percent of the total number of people diagnosed
with Alzheimer's disease. People with Down syndrome experiencing symptoms of premature
aging, are prone to this particular type of Alzheimer's disease.
Several researchers believe hereditary factors are responsible for mutations in
the genes named presenilin-1 (PS1) and presenilin-2 (PS2) are the most probable
factors for the early-onset Alzheimer's disease. These defective genes accelerate
the process of natural cell destruction by beta amyloid plaque formation and apoptosis.
Genetic mutations in the genes controlling the amyloid precursor protein (APP) are
also probable factors leading to the early-onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Late-onset of Alzheimer's disease- this is one of the commonest
forms of Alzheimer's disease, which usually occurs in a person after the age of
65. The Late-onset Alzheimer's disease occurs in people who are well above the age
65, usually 70's or 80's. Late-onset Alzheimer's disease is also
at times called sporadic Alzheimer's disease. Late-onset Alzheimer's disease has
also been linked to a region on chromosome 19 near the gene for apolipo-protein
E (APOE). Studies on individuals and families have shown that those with two APOE4
alleles are more likely to develop the late-onset Alzheimer's disease
than those with no such copies of APOE4.
Causes: This type of Alzheimer's disease may or may not be hereditary.
Studies show that late-onset Alzheimer's disease is often identified in those families
in which there are many siblings suffering from the same disease. A particular gene,
known as TRPC4AP on chromosome 20, is associated with calcium regulation, hence
when calcium levels are unregulated, the cells die, leading to the Alzheimer's disease.
Familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD) or early-onset Alzheimer's is an inherited, rare
form of the disease, affecting less than 10 percent of Alzheimer's disease patients.
FAD develops before age 65, in people as young as 35. If even one of these mutated
genes is inherited from a parent, the person will almost always develop FAD. All
offspring in the same generation have a 50/50 chance of developing FAD if one parent
Causes: This type of Alzheimer's disease is usually a result of
one of the three gene mutations on the chromosomes 14, 1, and 21. If any of these
mutated genes are inherited from either parent who has a family history of the same,
the person is highly likely to develop the FamilialAlzheimer's disease.
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