What is Alzheimers Disease? The most common form of dementing illness,Alzheimers Disease (AD) is a progressive, degenerative disease that attacks thebrain, causing impaired memory, thinking and behavior. The person with AD mayexperience confusion, personality and behavior changes, impaired judgment, anddifficulty finding words, finishing thoughts or following directions. Iteventually leaves its victims incapable of caring for themselves. What happens to the brain in Alzheimers Disease? In AD The nerve cellsin the part of the brain that controls memory, thinking, are damaged,interrupting the passage of messages between cells. The cells developdistinctive changes that are called neuritic plaques (clusters of degeneratingnerve cell ends) and neurofibrillary tangles (masses of twisted filaments whichaccumulate in previously health nerve cells).
The cortex (thinking center) ofthe brain shrinks (atrophies), The spaces in the center of the brain becomeenlarged, also reducing surface area in the brain. What are the symptoms of Alzheimers Disease? Alzheimers Disease is adementing illness which leads to loss of intellectual capacity. Symptoms usuallyoccur in older adults (although people in their 40s and 5Os may also beaffected) and include loss of language skills such as trouble finding words,problems with abstract thinking, poor or decreased judgment, disorientation inplace and time, changes in mood or behavior and changes in personality. Theoverall result is a noticeable decline in personal activities or workperformance.
Who is affected by Alzheimers Disease? Alzheimers Disease knows nosocial or economic boundaries and affects men and women almost equally. Thedisease strikes older persons more frequently, affecting approximately 10% ofAmericans over age 65 and 47% of those over age 85. Is Alzheimers Disease hereditary? There is a slightly increased riskthat children, brothers, and sisters of patients with Alzheimers Disease willget it, but most cases are the only ones in a family. Some patients who developthe disease in middle age (called early onset) have a “familial” type more thanone case in the family. It is important to note that AD can only be definitivelydiagnosed after death through autopsy of brain tissue.
Thirty percent ofautopsies turn up a different diagnosis. Families are encouraged to ask for anautopsy as a contribution to learning more about the genetics of AD. Are there treatments available for Alzheimers Disease? Presently, thereis no definite cure or treatment for Alzheimers Disease. Unfortunately, thereare many unscrupulous individuals who market so-called “cures.
” These treatmentsare often expensive and they dont cure AD. However, since senility is such ascary problem and because families are desperate to find help for loved ones,these bogus treatments continue to sell. Most of them have no scientific proofof effectiveness. What is the scope of Alzheimers Disease? Alzheimers afflictsapproximately 4 million Americans and its estimated that one in three of us willface this disease in an older relative. More than 100,000 die annually, makingAlzheimers Disease the fourth leading cause of death among adults.
Half of allcurrent nursing home patients are affected, making AD a costly public health andlong term care problem. An estimated $80 billion is spent annually on the careof AD, including costs diagnosis, treatment, nursing home care, at-home care andlost wages. Alzheimers also affects the patients caregivers, who become thesecond victims. Persons with AD often require 24-hour care and supervision, mostof which is provided in the home by family and friends. In addition to thetremendous stress of providing care, families also bear most of the financialburdens of the disease as well.