Alzhiemer's Disease. Essay

2346 words - 9 pages

Alzheimer's Disease: Not Just Loss of Memory.Introduction.Alzheimer's disease, a neurodegenerative brain disease, is the most common cause of dementia. It currently afflicts about 4 million Americans and is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Furthermore, Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of mental impairment in elderly people and accounts for a large percentage of admissions to assisted living homes, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities. Psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations, have been reported in a large proportion of patients with this disease. In fact, it is the presence of these psychotic symptoms can lead to early institutionalization (Bassiony, et all, 2000).Learning about Alzheimer's disease and realizing that it is much more that just a loss of memory can benefit the families of those with the disorder as well as society as a whole. The purpose of this paper is to look at the disorder, as well as to discuss the history, symptoms, diagnosis and hopes of a cure for Alzheimer's disease.History.Around the turn of the century, two kinds of dementia were defined by Emil Kraepin: senile and presenile. The presenile form was described more in detail by Alois Alzheimer as a progressive deterioration of intellect, memory and orientation. As a neuropathologist, Alzheimer studied the case a 51 year-old woman. When she died, Alzheimer performed an autopsy and found that she had "cerebral atrophy" (deterioration of the brain), "senile plaques" (protein deposits) and "neurofibrillary tangles" (abnormal filaments in nerve cells) in her brain -- three common pathological features of those who have Alzheimer's Disease (Ramanathan, 1997).Today, as research on Alzheimer's disease progresses, scientists are describing other abnormal anatomical and chemical changes associated with the disease. These include nerve cell degeneration in the brain's nucleus and reduced levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brains of Alzheimer's disease victims (Alzheimer's Disease). However, from a practical standpoint, conducting an autopsy of an individual to make a definitive diagnosis is rather ineffective. Newer diagnostic techniques will be discussed in a later section of this paper.Symptoms.The progression of Alzheimer's disease is classified into three phases: forgetfulness, confusional, and dementia. The forgetfulness phase is the first stage and is characterized by a loss of short-term memory. Patients in this phase will often have trouble remembering names of well-known people and will misplace items on a regular basis. This stage also may include behavioral changes. Additionally, a loss of spontaneity and social withdrawal often occurs as the individual begins to become aware that there is something inherently wrong. Speech problems and difficulty with comprehension may also appear. Cleary, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish an Alzheimer's patient from normal everyday people or people with...

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