Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that results in the degeneration of neurons in the brain. It is a form of dementia, a term that includes a variety of illnesses or conditions that cause dysfunctions in the brain. Alzheimer’s symptoms begin with what appears to be simple forgetfulness that can normally happen to any individual.
However, with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s it will eventually progress to the point where they lose all of their memories and abilities. It is estimated to affect somewhere between 5 to 15 percent of people 65 years and older.
This disease was first discovered in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer after performing an autopsy on a middle aged woman. She had suffered for several years with declining mental health. That’s where Alzheimer’s disease got it’s name, Dr. Alois Alzheimer. It’s rare for a disease to be named after a person.
We can define the characteristics of what is Alzheimer’s. The exact cause of the disease remains unknown. However, the characteristics of this condition include the accumulation of excess proteins in the brain. Resulting in amyloid plaques in abnormal clusters and neurofibrillary tangles. Which are basically tangled bundles of fibers.
It is thought that these accumulating obstructions, cause interruptions in the normal flow of chemical reactions, between the brain’s nerve cells. Over time, the areas that are cut off and isolated cease to function properly.
Alzheimer’s disease generally follows the pattern of first affecting the area of the brain that deals with how new information and memories are processed. Resulting in such difficulties as some memory loss, confusion, restlessness, mood swings and trouble making decisions.
As it gets worse, higher abilities such as language will be affected. Familiar faces or locations are not recognizable. Eventually the most basic functions of how to care for oneself are lost. This may progress to the point that the individual may forget how to even chew and swallow their food.
Alzheimer’s is a difficult disease to diagnose. The family doctor will be the first one to consult. Typically the doctor will endeavor to eliminate any other of a number of conditions that may be the actual cause of an individual’s dementia or symptoms.
Some disorders such as diabetes, thyroid disorders and anemia can be behind some of the same symptoms. These disorders would then be treated. Additionally, some forms of dementia are the result of an illness, an injury or possibly a stroke. In many of these cases there are treatments to alleviate the illness and thus the symptoms of dementia.
The doctor may also decide to bring in a specialist consultant. Together they will continue to work to narrow down the possible causes of the patient’s form of dementia. After other possibilities have been eliminated the doctor may give a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. However, it is only after a person has died and an autopsy performed can there be a certainty.
Although there is at present no known cure for Alzheimer’s, there are treatments, designed to help slow down its progress. To help alleviate some of the symptoms of alzheimer’s. To help the patient cope with the challenges of the disease. Also, to help achieve the best quality of life as possible.
There are also a number of organizations that seek to help and give comfort to those with Alzheimer’s and those that are Alzheimer’s caregivers.