Alzheimers disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, a severe brain disorder that impacts daily living through memory loss and cognitive changes (Albert, DeKosky, Dickson, Dubois, Fox, & Phelps, 2011). As a result of disease, proteins build up in the brain to form structures called plaques and tangles. These structures result in loss of connections between nerve cells, and eventually death of the nerve cells and loss of brain tissues (Glenner, 2012). Therefore, the scarcity of these chemicals messengers implies that the signals are not efficiently transmitted to the brain. People with Alzheimer's disease also have a shortage of some important chemicals in the brain. According to Glenner (2012), this disease was named after Alois Alzheimer, the doctor who first described it. The prevalence of Alzheimers disease in the US is 5.3 million (Jack, Bernstein, Fox, Thompson, Alexander, Harvey, & Weiner, 2008). Although not all memory loss indicates Alzheimer's disease, statistics shows that in every 10 people aged 65 years and above, one person has this kind of disorder (Kl?ppel, Stonnington, Chu, Draganski, Scahill, Rohrer, & Frackowiak, 2008). Additionally, over half of the individuals at age exceeding 85 have Alzheimer's disease. Currently, 26 million of people across the globe have the dementia, which indicates that by 2050, more than 15 million of Americans will be affected (Mangialasche, Solomon, Winblad, Mecocci, & Kivipelto, 2010). Moreover, an estimated 10% of people with AD have more than one type of disease at the same time leading to mixed dementia. The most popular combination is Alzheimer's disease with vascular dementia. Glenner (2012) in his investigation revealed that most people develop Alzheimers disease after the age of 65, but people under this age can also acquire the disorder. When this happens, the disorder is referred to as early-onset Alzheimer's disease, a type of young onset dilemma (Knopman, Chertkow, Hyman, Jack, Kawas, & Phelps, 2011). Additionally, there are about twice as many women as men over 65 with the disease. The possible reason is that Alzheimers in women is associated with lack of estrogen hormone after the menopause (Mangialasche, Solomon, Winblad, Mecocci, & Kivipelto, 2010). This paper discusses Alzheimers disease including its causes, diagnosis, signs, symptoms, management, and support.
Cause of Alzheimer's Disease
One of the causes of Alzheimer's disease is genetic inheritance. According to Kl?ppel et al. (2008), in families where the inheritance of this condition exists, dementia tends to develop before the age of 65. In the vast majority of people, the influence of genetics on the risk of Alzheimers disease are more subtle. Scientific research has shown that the number of genes can increase or decrease the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, people with Downs syndrome are at a particular risk of developing Alzheimers disease due to their difference in the genetic makeup (Albert et al., 2011).
Diagnosis of Alzheimer's disorder is done by the General Practitioners (GP) and other authorized experts including psychiatrists and neurologists. The experts recommend that anyone who suspects that he or she might have the disorder should seek immediate medication for early diagnosis. For this reason, an early diagnosis provides a clear explanation for the person's symptoms; gives immediate access to treatment, advice and support; and allows preparation of the future plan (Albert et al., 2011). There is no single test for Alzheimer's disease. First, the GP rules out conditions that have similar symptoms such as infections, vitamins and thyroid deficiencies, depression, and side effects of medication (Jack et al., 2008). In the same context, the doctor will counsel the person, while the GP or a practice nurse may ask the patient to do some tests of mental abilities. At this stage, the GP may feel comfortable to make the diagnosis of the disorder. The specialist, therefore, assesses the individual's symptoms and how they developed in detail (Jack et al., 2008). As a result, the gradual worsening of memory over several months discovers the presence of Alzheimer's.
The patient may also undergo a brain scan through Computerized Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to show whether certain changes have taken place in the min (Mangialasche, Solomon, Winblad, Mecocci, & Kivipelto, 2010). A brain scan may show certain conditions such as stroke, tumor, or a build-up of fluids inside the brain. These can have similar symptoms to those of dementia. It can also clarify the type of disorder (Kl?ppel et al., 2008). A brain scan of a person with early Alzheimer's disease shows that the hippocampus and the surrounding brain tissues have shrunk.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are mild but with time they may get worse and start interfere with the daily activities. There are some typical signs of disorder that vary from one patient to another since everyone is unique. In this case, two individuals with Alzheimer's are unlikely to experience similar conditions (Glenner, 2012). For most people with dementia, the immediate symptoms are memory lapses. For instance; the patients may have difficulty in recalling recent events and learning new information (Kl?ppel et al., 2008). The symptom occurs because of the early damage of the part of the brain called the hippocampus that has a central role in memory.
Although memory difficulties are usually the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer's, people with this disorder will also develop problems related to other aspects of thinking, reasoning, perception, and communication (McKhann et al., 2011). For that reason, these people may have difficulty in language as they may struggle to follow a conversation or repeat themselves unintentionally. In addition, the visuospatial skill challenge that leads to judgment impairments and seeing objects in three dimensions can arise (Kl?ppel et al., 2008). The patients can further lack the concentration and planning of a particular activity. As a result, they have the difficulties in decision making, problem-solving or conducting a sequence of tasks (Albert et al., 2011). Nevertheless, patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's will often have changes in their mood. Sometimes, they become anxious, irritable, or depressed. Many people become withdrawn and lose interest in activities and hobbies (Glenner, 2012).
As Alzheimer's progress, most people develop hallucinations. Others also acquire unusual characteristics such as restlessness and aggressive reactions (Mangialasche, Solomon, Winblad, Mecocci, & Kivipelto, 2010). In the later stages of the disorder, patients may become less aware of the events around them. Consequently, the patients could have difficulties in eating and walking without help and thus, become increasingly frail (McKhann et al., 2011).
Management and Support
Currently, the cure for Alzheimer's has not been discovered, but there are measures that enable the patient to live longer with this condition. These tests involve both drug and non-drug care, support and activities (Glenner, 2012). Administration of drugs is one of the common ways that can slightly alleviate some symptoms and slow down their progression in some people (Jack et al., 2008). The recommended drugs to administer include donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine. These medicines reduce the memory impairments, improve concentration and motivation, and boost the aspects of daily living including hobbies (McKhann et al., 2011).
Another treatment for this kind of disorder is the administration of such therapies as cognitive behavioral therapy, especially if the patient is depressed or anxious (Kl?ppel et al., 2008). In fact, there are several means of helping an ill person remain independent and cope with the memory lapse. These ways include practical activities such as using a weekly pill-box (Mangialasche, Solomon, Winblad, Mecocci, & Kivipelto, 2010).
Evidently, attending counseling sessions increase cognitive stimulation to reduce dementia. Moreover, life story work, whereby individuals share their life experiences and make a personal record may help with memory, mood, and wellbeing (Glenner, 2012). The contrary holds as dementia worsens because many people enjoy more general reminiscence activities. General non-drug approaches such as social interaction, music, exercise and other meaningful physical activities also reduce the Alzheimers disease (McKhann et al., 2011).
Health and Lifestyle
Medical conditions such as diabetes stroke and heart problems, as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol level and obesity in midlife increases the risk of both Alzheimer's and vascular dementia (Kl?ppel et al., 2008). These risks can be reduced and controlled. Most importantly, early treatment of depression should be done as it is the probable risk factor for dementia. However, people who embrace a healthy lifestyle, especially from mid-life onwards are less likely to acquire Alzheimers disease (Jack et al., 2008). Healthy life involves doing regular physical exercise, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding smoking.
AD gradually changes the lives of people with this disease over time. There are many steps that both patients and experts can take to treat the illness. Today, there are preventive and treatment measures that can help reduce the symptoms of AD as well as some of the moods and behaviors that result from it. Early diagnosis of this kind of disorder is better because its treatment can work best when begun immediately. Currently, new treatments for AD and new ways to diagnose it early are in progress. Although people with dementia often display characteristics that are challenging to the family to manage, these behaviors result from the brain damage and are unintentional. In a hospitable society, people with dementia have to be treated with kindness. To conclude, it is imperative to practice healthy lifestyles on a daily basis. This method will contribute to more successful disease treatment when trying to overcome the barriers concerning Alzheimer's disease.
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