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    Causes and Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

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    Most people know a friend or family member who suffers from the form of dementia called Alzheimer’s Disease. It is known as one of the most tragic and common afflictions to prey upon seniors. Other types of dementia strike in similar ways, but none quite like Alzheimer’s disease. It’s the most common form of dementia, next to those caused by a stroke or brain injury. “Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.” (What Is Dementia?). Many people whose elderly relatives start showing signs of dementia, automatically think that Alzheimer’s is to blame. However, because there are so many forms of dementia, only seeing a qualified physician would result in confirmation. “An estimated 5.2 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease (2013 figures). This includes an estimated 5 million people age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals younger than age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.” (Rowland, en al). This does not include the growth over the last 5 years. It could be assumed that the more than 5 million could now have grown to be at least 6 million or more. That is a staggering amount of people.

    Some people think that Alzheimer’s Disease is reserved for the standard citizen, but it effects all individuals. Many famous people have even suffered from the condition, such as Robin Williams and Ronald Regan. President Regan was the active president when congress passed a bill to fund what’s now known as the Alzheimer’s Association, which provided the money needed to start major research. Towards the end of this life, Regan himself suffered from Alzheimer’s.

    Although Alzheimer’s Disease starts with generally the same symptoms that comes with the normal aging process, it involves a much more destructive force that takes place in the brain. “Plaques and tangles interfere with the normal functioning of the neurons (NOO-rahnz), or nerve cells, and the transmission of messages between the brain and other parts of the body.” (Miranda, et al). This means that Alzheimer’s causes the brain damage in a way that prevents proper communication with its different parts. “About half of the elderly men and women with severe intellectual impairment have Alzheimer’s disease; another fourth suffer from vascular disorders (especially multiple strokes), and the rest have a variety of problems, including Brain Tumors, abnormal thyroid function, infections, pernicious anemia, adverse drug reactions, and abnormalities in the cerebrospinal fluid.” (Turkington).

    Sadly as far as diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is concerned, it’s almost impossible to do so using regular means. There are no biological tests to diagnose the disease or discern it from other forms of dementia. To help diagnosis Alzheimer’s, doctors look for signs of dementia, or do a CT/MRI of the patient’s brain. “Early diagnosis of AD is important to determine the proper treatment and to detect underlying diseases such as depression, drug interactions, vitamin deficiencies, or endocrine problems. A definitive diagnosis of AD can only be confirmed on autopsy.” (Stark, Wallace).

    Alzheimer’s disease is named after a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist, Dr. Alois Alzheimer. “Alois Alzheimer was born in Marktbreit, Germany, in 1864, and showed an early aptitude for science. After obtaining his medical degree, he worked in hospitals in Frankfurt, where he met Auguste Deter, a 51-year-old woman suffering from progressive short-term memory loss.” (“Alois Alzheimer”). This woman’s symptoms included memory problems, loss of language function, and unstable behavior. The symptoms were first noticed by her husband, who began noticing an increase in paranoia and memory recall. When the issues became to much to handle on his own, he sought out the help of a local mental hospital where Dr. Alzheimer was working at the time.

    For the next few years Dr. Alzheimer studied the woman as her symptoms progressed. It wasn’t until she died that he was able to have an autopsy done to prove what he had suspected was happening in her brain. Once a few samples of her brain were under his microscope, he saw what appeared to be various abnormalities in the structure of the brain. The cerebral cortex was smaller than normal, and something previously encountered in far older people, was found in the brain along with things called neurofibrillary tangles. “His biopsy description of dense deposits surrounding the nerve cells (neuritic plaques), and twisted bands of fibers within the nerve cells (neurofibrillary tangles), along with the clinical symptoms of pre-senile dementia, would later be coined Alzheimer’s disease by psychiatrist colleague and co discoverers Emil Kraepelin.” (Vyas, et al). At first the slides containing the brain matter from the woman studied by Dr. Alzheimer were lost, to be later rediscovered and reanalyzed by another neuroscientist in the late 29th century. Once the slides were recovered, notes Dr. Alzheimers left behind combined with more current research, confirmed that the doctor was correct about his diagnosis of the woman in question.

    It causes a variety of different symptoms that include problems with language, memory, and emotional behavior. Problems with language can present itself in the form of trouble finding names of common items or people. Other symptoms include the inability to recognize familiar people and places. Eventually unable to recognize even their own family members. This could easily be considered one of the most iconic symptoms of Alzheimer’s. It causes an amount of pain that cannot be put into words, when family say’s hello to their loved one only to have them look back at you and say, “who are you?”. Another symptom is aphasia, meaning loss of language. A patient suffering from this may not remember the names of certain objects, and instead use terms like “thing” or “it”. This sometimes causes a patient suffering this infliction to become very frustrated when unable to describe what it is that they need. In rare cases, curse words are the last remaining amongst their fragmented vocabulary. The inability to perform voluntary movements like walking or moving one’s arms, is called apraxia. Simple tasks such as putting on clothing or make themselves food become difficult and eventually impossible, resulting in the need of round the clock care.

    Not only does the disease cause a stress on the family managing someone with it, but it is a massive financial burden on the country. “In 2013, the direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s to American society will total an estimated $203 billion, including $142 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid.” (Rowland, en al). This burden will only increase as the years progress and the number of patients affected go up. One could really pause for a moment and think of the money that could be saved by investing a fraction of the amount of money that gets spent managing the condition, into research for a cure.

    Alzheimer’s disease is known as one the most tragic conditions for not only the Patient, but the family members who must watch the disease take hold of their loved one’s brains. Because very little is known about the causes, and practically no treatment options, it leaves people feeling especially hopeless.

    Works Cited

    1. Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris. ‘Alzheimer’s disease.’ The Encyclopedia of the Brain and Brain Disorders, 3rd ed., Facts on File, 2009, pp. 16-22. Facts on File Library of Health and Living. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.library.csn.edu/apps/doc/CX1692700038/GVRL?u=las55353&sid=GVRL&xid=3b73881c. Accessed 13 July 2018.
    2. Whitehouse, Peter J. ‘Alzheimer’s Disease.’ Encyclopedia of Health & Aging, edited by Kyriakos S. Markides, SAGE Reference, 2007, pp. 35-37. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.library.csn.edu/apps/doc/CX2661000028/GVRL?u=las55353&sid=GVRL&xid=4f81a93d. Accessed 13 July 2018.
    3. Vyas, Bagyalakshmi D. ‘Alzheimer’s Disease.’ Cultural Sociology of Mental Illness: An A-to-Guide, edited by Andrew Scull, vol. 1, SAGE Reference, 2014, pp. 23-26. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX6500100020/GVRL?u=las55353&sid=GVRL&xid=0432477e. Accessed 11 July 2018.
    4. Gulli, Farid Laith, et al. ‘Alzheimer’s Disease.’ The Gale Encyclopedia of Neurological Disorders, edited by Brigham Narins, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2012, pp. 49-63. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX4012500026/GVRL?u=las55353&sid=GVRL&xid=7a16e946. Accessed 11 July 2018
    5. “Alois Alzheimer.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 25 Feb. 2016, www.biography.com/people/alois-alzheimer-21216461.
    6. Rowland, Belinda, and Tish Davidson. ‘Alzheimer’s Disease.’ The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, edited by Laurie J. Fundukian, 4th ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2014, pp. 77-83. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.library.csn.edu/apps/doc/CX3189900034/GVRL?u=las55353&sid=GVRL&xid=8c32836e. Accessed 13 July 2018.
    7. What Is Dementia?” Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Association, www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia.
    8. ‘Alzheimer’s Disease.’ Human Diseases and Conditions, edited by Miranda Herbert Ferrara, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2010, pp. 70-76. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.library.csn.edu/apps/doc/CX2830200023/GVRL?u=las55353&sid=GVRL&xid=cf758c74. Accessed 13 July 2018.
    9. Stark, Sharon Wallace. ‘Alzheimer’s Disease.’ Psychology Basics, Rev. ed., edited by Nancy A. Piotrowski, vol. 1, Salem Press, 2005, pp. 51-58. Magill’s Choice. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3036800016/GVRL?u=las55353&sid=GVRL&xid=34a818da. Accessed 21 July 2018.
    10. Andrews, Linda Wasmer. ‘Alzheimer’s Disease.’ Encyclopedia of Depression, vol. 1, Greenwood Press, 2010, pp. 20-22. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.library.csn.edu/apps/doc/CX1762700022/GVRL?u=las55353&sid=GVRL&xid=7d7b34dd. Accessed 13 July 2018.

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    Causes and Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. (2022, May 10). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/causes-and-effects-of-alzheimers-disease-176258/

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