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ALZHEIMERS

By Kayleigh Martin

Alzheimers is a progressive brain disorder in the Dementia family that slowly destroys
memory and thinking skills and is irreversible. It is the more common Dementia in older
adults.
The causes of Alzheimer disease is still not fully understood by scientists. Early onset
Alzheimer is thought to have genetic links while late onset is believed to be due to
multiple factors. Age related changes in the brain may harm neurons and contribute to
Alzheimers damage. These are related changes include shrinking of certain parts of
the brain, inflammation, production of unstable molecules called free radicals, and
mitochondrial dysfunction (a breakdown of energy production within a cell).
Alzheimer is classified in stages, mile, moderate and severe.

Mild symptoms can

include wandering and getting lost, trouble handling money and paying bills, repeating
questions, taking longer to complete daily living tasks and behavior changes. Moderate
symptoms include memory loss and confusion getting worse, difficulty or inability to
learn new things, inability to cope with new situations, exhibiting paranoia, impulsive
behavior, and will have problems with recognizing family and friends. Severe symptoms
will include development of plaques and tangles

spread throughout the brain,

completely dependent on others for their care, the brain tissue shrinks and the organs
shut down, ultimately death,
How long does the stages of Alzheimer take until the patient passes away? The length
of time is dependent on the early diagnosis and treatments used. Genetics seem to
play a role in this process. A gene, APOE e4 increases a persons risk of developing
the disease and is also associated with an earlier onset of the disease. Even if you
have the APOE e4 gene it does not always mean you will develop the disease. The
percentage of the population that develop early onset (ages 30-60) is only less than five
percent, and most people with Downs syndrome will develop the disease. The cause
for this is believe to be related to the fact that Downs people have an extra copy of

chromosome 21. The statics for life span after an Alzheimer diagnosis is eight to ten
years although some people have lived as short as three years and as long as twenty.
Alzheimer is diagnosed with multiple tests including laboratory tests and analysis of
lifestyle with the patient and family. The family is very critical to a diagnosis as the
patients inability to remember complicates them being the only source for a diagnosis.
As a general rule there is ten signs that are part of the diagnosis process. 1) Memory
loss that disrupts daily life 2) Challenges in planning or solving problems 3) Difficulty
completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure 4) Confusion with time or place 5)
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships 6) New problems with
words in speaking or writing 7) misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
8) Decreased or poor judgment 9) Withdrawal from work or social activities 10)
Changes in mood and personality. Often a brain scan will provide useful information in
the diagnosis process as it will rule out other possible causes for the symptoms. The
only complete and positive diagnosis for Alzheimer in after death and performing an
autopsy.
The effects of Alzheimer extends beyond the patient to the family and caregivers. As
the disease progresses the patient will no longer remember the family they love or the
things they have done in life. This is devasting for the family as the person they have
always known is in essence gone. There might be brief period of recognition but for the
most part the recognition is no longer there. There is support groups specifically to help
family through this agonizing process. The patient in the earlier stages will become very
frustrated and hostile as simple tasks they have always done themselves they can no
longer remember. Imagine you get out of bed and go into the bathroom to brush your
teeth and cant remember what a tooth brush is or how to use it. This becomes the
daily life for the patient.
While there is no known cure for Alzheimers there is ongoing clinical trials that help to
provide earlier diagnoses and an improved quality of life.

Participants in this trials

provide vital information that researchers will use to hopefully provide earlier diagnosis,
better treatments and ultimately a cure. Meanwhile current treatments with drugs such
as Donepezil, Exelon and Razadyne

are helping to treat mild to moderate cases.

Namenda is used to treat moderate to severe cases. These drugs work by regulating
neurotransmitter, the chemicals that transmit messages between neurons. They also
help in maintaining thinking, memory and communication skills and can help with certain
behavioral problems. While these drugs are helpful for many peoples symptoms these
drugs dont change the underlying disease process.
Will we see a cure for Alzheimers in our lifetime? No one can answer that question,
yet. Progress is being made on a vaccine to prevent developing Alzheimers and a drug
therapy that reverses the effects and returns the brain to normal in being worked on
now. Maybe there will be a cure in our lifetime.