Alzheimer’s Disease is a Chronic and Devastating Disease That Remains Unsolved
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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a chronic and devastating mystery that remains unsolved by today’s modern medicine. Alzheimer’s Disease plagues over 56 million people worldwide and has left medical experts helpless. Alzheimer’s is also a degenerative disease that destroys brain cells causing extreme memory loss and disorientation. About every 65 seconds, a person in the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I chose Alzheimer’s for my research paper because I think it’s one of the most interesting diseases than any other topics that my fellow classmates could have chosen. I also believe this could happen to anyone, including myself.
According to Alzheimer’s Association.” This number includes an estimated 5.5 million people age 65 and older and approximately 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s. One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Older African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites. Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites” (AA,2018). No one is immune.
Today’s society believes the primary reason why women are more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is because women generally live longer than men. But according to a team of researchers at Stanford University disagree and reported that,” Both men and women who inherit two copies (one from each parent) of this gene variant, known as ApoE4, are at extremely high risk for Alzheimer’s. But the double-barreled ApoE4 combination is uncommon, affecting only about 2 percent of the population, whereas about 15 percent of people carry a single copy of this version” (Sandford Medicine, 2012).
Alzheimer’s disease received its name by the doctor who first discovered it in 1901. It was discovered by German neurologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Alois Alzheimer who excelled at science and received his medical degree from the University of Würzburg at the age of 23. He noticed that there was a hospitalized 51-year-old female patient named Auguste D, who was suffering from an early onset of the disease. She showed signs of dementia, including memory loss, disorientation, aphasia, confusion, hallucinations and delusions. When she passed away in 1906, Dr. Alzheimer did an autopsy of her brain. He wanted to test his ideas and predict maybe perhaps her symptoms were caused by irregularities in the brain’s structure.
Now that the person’s mind is erased, it affects their way of living and affects the people around them. One of the other major symptoms that wasn’t mention was Agnosia; Agnosia only happens when the person is having trouble receiving information from their five senses. People with Alzheimer’s often mistaken seeing things. For example, the person may mistakenly try to eat with the knife instead of the fork. This condition also cause affect to recognize faces. The person might mistakenly think their significant other is a friend or even worst not recognize the person at all.
To determine if one has Alzheimer’s dementia, “the doctors first has to assess whether if that patient has an underlying treatable condition such as abnormal thyroid function, normal pressure hydrocephalus, or a vitamin deficiency that may relate to cognitive difficulties.” (NIA). It is important for doctors to detect early symptoms because in some cases, it is treatable. “In most cases, the specific type of dementia a person has may not be confirmed until after the person has died and the brain is examined.” (NIA). Usually for a medical assessment for dementia generally includes asking for the patient’s medical history. Asking typical questions such as their family history if the disease runs in the family, and if so how and when those symptoms occur, how they behave or if the person is taking certain medications and if so, could that be a possibility of the change in the person’s personality. Next is the physical exam, Doctors have to measure the patient’s blood pressure and be cautious of other vital signs that may help them detect other conditions to determine if the disease if it’s treatable. Lastly, is the neurological tests. The neurologist tests help assemble balance, sensory response, reflexes, and other cognitive functions helps identify conditions that may affect the diagnosis or are treatable with drugs.
There are other procedures that are usually used to diagnose dementia such as cognitive and neuropsychological tests, Laboratory tests, Brain scans, Psychiatric evaluation and Genetic testing. Cognitive/ Neuropsychological testing looks at how healthy the patient’s brain affects memory, problem solving, language skills, math skills, and other abilities related to mental functioning. Laboratory testing is the usually testing the blood and other fluids of the patient as well checking levels of various chemicals, hormones, and vitamins, can help find or rule out possible causes of symptoms. Brain scans are able to identify strokes, tumors and other possible causes of dementia. There are other specific scans that determine the changes in the brain’s structure and function such as Computed tomography, CT (x rays to produce images of the brain), Magnetic resonance imaging. MRI (magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of body), Positron emission tomography PET (radiation to provide pictures of brain activity). Psychiatric evaluation is useful to determine if depression or another mental health illness is causing or contributing to a person’s symptoms. Or Genetic testing is used to figure out if that patient is a high risk for dementia.
Today’s researchers are inspired to look for a cure but currently are more focused on slowing the progression but it’s not good enough. There is one temporary treatment helps reduce the breakdown of acetylcholine, an important chemical messenger in the brain which is decreased in Alzheimer’s patients due to the death of nerve cells that make it. Another possible solution is a vaccine that trains the body’s immune system to attack beta amyloid plaques before they can form clumps.
Alzheimer’s is sneaking its way in and it can happen to anyone. The day when it does strike a loved one it becomes a crisis that affects everyone around. The exact causes of AD are not understood and there are no known cure. While several treatments are available, they have had limited success in slowing the progression of the disease and generally have been a disappointment to patients and their physicians. As the number of AD patients climbs, families increasingly bear the burden of caring for loved ones, and in the process suffer adverse health outcomes themselves