Science / Alzheimer'S Disease

Alzheimer'S Disease

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Autor:  anton  16 November 2010
Tags:  Alzheimers,  Disease
Words: 1832   |   Pages: 8
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Alzheimer's Disease

With all of the advanced technology that the medical field possesses today, there are still some diseases that are just incurable. One of those diseases that continue to takes the lives of many people each day is Alzheimer’s disease. This paper will thoroughly discuss the disease by examining its definition, its causes, treatments, symptoms and how to make the life of an Alzheimer’s patient easier.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a disease in which the loss of mental ability is severe enough to interfere with daily activities, it last at least six months and it is not present from birth (Bronstein & Pulst, 1996). Many scientists believe that Alzheimer’s results from an increase in the production or accumulation of a specific protein (beta-amyloid protein) that leads to the death of nerve cells. The loss of certain nerve cells in the brain causes defects in the neurotransmitters, which are the brains main form of chemical messengers. It is not simply something that happens later in life, it’s one of the dementing disorders that result in a loss of mental and physical functions.

Certain risk factors can play a part in who gets Alzheimer’s disease. Women are more likely to contract the disease then men, but this is due to the fact that women live longer. Those that have an immediate relative (parent, sister or brother) have a slightly higher chance of getting Alzheimer’s then others, more about the genetics that is involved in Alzheimer’s will be discussed later. You lifestyle can also play a part; recent studies show that you need to exercise your brain, perhaps doing a crossword puzzle each day (Stewart, 1998). Recent studies done by the J Neurol Neurosurg PsychiatryAssosaition are showing that there is a relationship between cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The exact relationship has not yet be confirmed, but it is known that Alzheimer’s disease can intensify the effects of a coexisting cardiovascular disease (Stewart, 1998). Some people believe that smoking and Alzheimer’s are related, many studies have examined this yet none have come to a conclusion of whether it is a negative or positive factor. One study did discover that current smoking over a two year period is a risk factor with those who already have Alzheimer’s disease (Off, Slooter & Hoffman 1998).

Alzheimer’s is generally related to age. Early onset Alzheimer’s disease is when someone as early at 40-50 develops symptoms. As age increases, the frequency of Alzheimer’s does also. Ten percent of people over the age of 65 and fifty percent of those 85 and older have Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050 it is expected that 14 million people will have Alzheimer’s (Bronstein & Pulst, 1996). From the time one is first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease they have on average eight years to live, but this can range from one year to twenty. Alzheimer’s disease is the fourth leading cause of death in adults. The average cost of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is roughly $174,000 over the course of the disease. Although if the condition is so bad that outside help is need such as a nursing home, the cost rises (Robinson, 1999).

In 1906 Dr Alois Alzheimer, perfomed an autopsy on a women who died from an unusual mental illness. He discovered changes in the women’s brain tissues; the brain became clogged with two structures, which are no known as neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques. The senile plaques degenerate nerve cells that are surrounded by a protein known as beta amyloid, and the neurofibrillary tangles are simply twisted masses of protein fibers. It is not clear how these structures cause problems but it is believed that they interfere with communications between the neurons and the brain (Robinson, 1999).

The disease takes place in stages, at first one will experience short term memory loss which results in forgetting simple daily activities, they could forget to take their medicine or forget a doctors appointment. They also experience a slight personality change and a withdrawal from social activities. Simple things like these can affect their job or marriage. As the disease develops they have problems with abstract thinking, they may have trouble with numbers when trying to pay their bills, or just in general being organized. They become disoriented, not knowing where they live, who is around them. They begin to forget names of close relatives, become slightly violent and even wander off not knowing where they are going. In very extreme cases one can forget how to take care of oneself, they need help eating and walking and can even forget how to talk. Even with all the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the patients must undergo many tests. Their medical history must be checked because some prescription and some over the counter drugs can show symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease. A final positive diagnosis can only be made after death during an autopsy when senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are present (Robinson, 1999).

There are a few treatments available, but none of which are completely effective seeing how Alzheimer’s is still incurable. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Tacrine (Cognex) and donepezil hydrochloride (Aricept). Both of these increase the levels of communication in the brain by increasing the neurotransmitter levels. Specifically they increase the amount of neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in sending messages that have to do with muscle action, learning and memory. They do this by inhibiting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, which normally breaks down acetylcholine after neurons release it. They cannot stop the deterioration of the nerve cells they can only help increase the amount of communication done by the remaining cells. The Tacrine drug is effective in improving memory skills, but only for those with mild Alzheimer’s disease. Its effects are usually mild and temporary but they can help delay the need of a nursing home, which saves a lot of money. The Tacrine has some side effects such as nausea, diarrhea abdominal cramps, ect. It costs roughly $125 a month but compared to the price of a nursing home it is worth the money. Donepezil on the other hand has a few advantages over Tacrine. It has less side effects and only needs to be taking one time a day rather then the three times that Tacrine must be taken. Several recent studies are showing that women who take estrogen have lower rates of Alzheimer’s then those who are not taking estrogen. However those that develop it any way have less severe symptoms and a slower progression of the disease. It is also suggested that Vitamin E can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, the reason behind this is unknown. It could be the overall healthiness of those taking it or the action of vitamin E on brain cells. Alzheimer patients generally have pour health. It is very important for them to continue to exercise and eat well. Professional advice from a nutritionist might be an easy way to insure all the required foods and available and easy to prepare. Finger foods might be a better idea then large meals that require utensils. So basically it’s very important to provide the patient with good nursing, which provides physical and emotional help (Robinson, 1999).

The caregiver has a very stressful job dealing with the patient, especially if it is a family member. It is normal for caregivers to have feelings of anger, guilt hopelessness and sorrow they feel for there loved one along with themselves. Depression is very common among caregivers; there are even support groups for those who find it to hard to deal with. Joining the support groups is highly recommended and can be one of those most important things family members do for themselves and for there loved one who has Alzheimer’s. The patient will also need regular medical care by a physician with a positive attitude towards Alzheimer’s so problems such as urinary or respiratory can be properly diagnosed and treated. Eventually the family will need to look into extra help to relive time they put into caring for the Alzheimer’s patient. Personal care assistants, adult day care facilities, meal delivery and shopping assistance are all forms of aid. For many families a nursing home must be chosen in the end.

Several genes have been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, including the gene responsible for producing amyloid protein. The most important genetic link was discovered in 1990 on chromosome 19. A gene on this chromosome known as apoE is responsible for coding a protein, which is involved in the transportation of liquid into neurons. Each person inherits one of the three forms (apoE2, aopE3, and aopE4) from each parent. So one can have two copies of one of the genes or two different ones It was found that people with atleast one ApoE4, are around three times more likely to develop late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and those with two copies are almost four times as likely to do so. Although not everyone with apoE4 develops Alzheimer’s and people without it can still have the disease (Robinson, 1999).

With all this being said about the cause, symptoms, treatments and lack of cure for Alzheimer’s disease, one must wonder what is the best way to help someone with Alzheimer’s disease. The caregiver should attempt to make sure the environment is much the same and there are not many changes. You should never tease or argue the patient and make sure they stay well rested. Insure that the patient does, as many things as they can themselves and the caregiver should only aid in the things the patient is no longer able to do by themselves. The visitors that the patient sees should be limited in order to avoid confusion and trigger unwanted situations. One should make sure that you celebrate or show signs of pleasure when the patient accomplishes a goal, and always listen to what they have to say (Robinson ,1999).

Alzheimer’s disease shapes the lives of many of us today. Whether someone is faced with it, or a family member is, it changes how one leads his or her daily lives. This disease can result in losing control of brain function and a subsequent loss of memory. It then can lead to loss of self-confidence, and eventually a dramatic loss in self-control, which leads to an inability to take care of ones self. A reason why Alzheimer’s disease is so devastating is that there is no cure. With the dramatic increase in research and public interest, there is hope that one cure may be on the way soon.


1. Bronstein, Y., Pulst, S.M. (1996), Alzheimer’s Disease. MedicineNet, Inc.

2. Robinson, Richard. (1999), Alzheimer's Disease. Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine.

3. Ott A, Slooter AJC, Hofman A, et al. (1997), Smoking and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease in a population-based cohort study: the Rotterdam Study. Risk of dementia.

4. Stewart, R. (1998), Cardiovascular factors in Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry

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