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 orientation.
  • 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 has it.

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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