Alzheimer’s Disease Facts
Alzheimer's disease is a condition affecting the brain, resulting in a rapid and severe deterioration of mental capacities. It was first recorded in the early part of the 20th century by a German scientist, Dr. Alois Alzheimer. He noted its presence in the autopsy of a middle-aged patient suffering from an acute form of dementia (mental degeneration). Because Alzheimer's disease has often struck both men and women in the 40 to 609 age bracket, it has sometimes been referred to as presenile dementia, a forerunner of senility, detected occasionally in the elderly.
Question: What are the signs and symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease?
Doctors have discovered that the nerve cells in the brains of Alzheimer's patients show certain distinct abnormalities. They have cited, for example, the existence of a tangle of nerve fibers, not observed in the brains of normal, healthy adults. They have also located a structure called the neuritic plaque, which is made up of deteriorating nerve endings.
People with Alzheimer's disease suffer from severe memory loss. They can no longer recall important events in their lives or recognize such significant people as spouses, children, and siblings. They frequently experience utter confusion and are unable to speak clearly or move with ease. Many patients exhibit a form of paranoia, having fears of things that do not exist. Some are incontinent.
Question: What is the precise cause of Alzheimer's disease?
Researchers have not been able to discover the cause. Some feel that Alzheimer's may be related to a chemical deficiency. Others speculate that the source may be a virus. Still, some research has hinted at an excessive accumulation of aluminum in the brain as the cause.
Recent research has also indicated the presence of an abnormal protein in Alzheimer's patients, A-68, that is absent in non-Alzheimer's patients. Development of a simple laboratory test could mean better diagnosis, the correction of misdiagnosed Alzheimer's patients, and better treatment at an earlier stage of the disease. A definitive explanation as to the cause of the disease has not yet been reached.
Question: What is the treatment for Alzheimer's disease?
There is, unfortunately, no effective treatment for preventing or stopping the ravages of the disease. Studies suggest that a good diet may help to slow the progression of the illness. Still, most Alzheimer's patients are eventually hospitalized or placed in nursing homes, since family members find it increasingly difficult to provide the constant, around-the-clock care and attention needed. Recently, support groups have been started around the country to help relatives of Alzheimer's victims cope with their own feelings and make adjustments in their lives.
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Written by: Amaury Hernández