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WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE BY RUDOLF R MIJACEVIC

By at February 6, 2014 | 7:53 am | Print

It is non-reversible brain disorder that attacks brain cells and steals the mind of the affected. Imagine how someone would feel if his/her loved one has just disappeared. It could be mother, father, brother or sister. It could be anyone who has wandered off because he or she has Alzheimer’s disease. Did you know that this horrible disease has affected nearly 5.6 million of people in the United States? Moreover, it is predicted that Alzheimer’s globally will affect 1 in 85 people by the year 2050. So, in order to better understand Alzheimer’s disease, it is very important to know several facts such as the symptoms, its causes, the various stages of this disease, and current treatments available.

Let’s talk about what are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease? In the majority of cases those who have been infected by Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss is the number one symptom. Furthermore, memory loss can be divided into two categories: 1) lack of spatial abilities and, 2) lack of verbal abilities. What does that mean? Well, in the first case scenario, when a person who has been affected by Alzheimer’s lacks spatial abilities, it means that the performance of the same person is significantly impaired on tasks such as those that involve perception. On the other hand, language comprehension is a result of loss of verbal abilities.

Not only memory loss, but also confusion is one of well-recognized symptoms of Alzheimer’s. After the disease progresses, the patient becomes confused with many simple things such as place, time and/or location. In the worst stage of confusion, patients are so much affected that they do not recognize family members anymore. Last but not least, disorientation is another well-known symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. When disoriented, the patient is simply a prisoner of his mind because finding his way back to home, or even remembering own name is such an impossible mission.

What does cause Alzheimer’s? Is it inherited or is it a transferable disease that everyone should be afraid of? It is known and believed by many scientists and doctors that the greatest risk factor for getting Alzheimer’s is increasing age.  For example, after age 65, the risk of Alzheimer’s doubles every five years, and twenty years later, after age of 85 the risk roughly reaches 50 percent. Unfortunately increasing age is not the only cause of Alzheimer’s. Some diseases are caused genetically, so is Alzheimer’s. Genes certainly play a huge role in development of this merciless disease. There are many kinds of dementias and the gene known as APOE4 is the main cause of developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s. So those who are the carriers of such a gene are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s in comparison to those who do not carry the same gene. The lifestyle also can play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Nutrition is very important in each ones life, so diets are facts that may help reduce diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, diseases that are in some sort of connection with Alzheimer’s disease.

Knowing symptoms and causes of Alzheimer’s only, is simply just scratching the surface to better understand the history, nature, and behavior of this disease. In order to learn more and understand Alzheimer’s up to some point, it must be said a couple sentences about its stages: the mild, the moderate, and the severe stage. In the first stage, memory loss is consistent and is usually described in those who are recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This stage is defined not as bad as the other two because the brain is not affected so much. The loss of interest in hobbies, poor judgment, trouble handling money, paying bills and etc., are some signs of the mild stage. The second stage is more serious than the first one because the patient here becomes more often disoriented and gets easily lost in a place. In this stage, the damage of nerve cells is more likely and it occurs in areas that control reasoning, consciousness, and language. Definitely the worst stage of all three and most complicated is the severe stage of Alzheimer’s. After the brain gets so damaged, not much remains in the memory, fragments only. Literally, in this stage of disease the brain becomes unable to function normally, so it becomes useless for hobbies and activities. The patient requires full personal care; he/she barely speaks just a few hardly understandable words or in worse case has no verbal ability at all. Because a patient spends most of the time lying in the bed, his body becomes weak, the immune system is not self defensive anymore, and body exposes symptoms such as skin infection, groaning, moaning, weight loss, and difficulty swallowing – all this as result of patient’s brain shrinkage. The third, the worst stage of Alzheimer’s disease takes complete control of the body until it shuts down.

After all this above has been read, one may ask “Can this disease be cured somehow?” The answer is simply no. Alzheimer’s cannot be cured but there are some treatments such as medication drugs and alternative medicine available today and those can be primary used to slow the progression of the disease, not to cure it. What those medications basically do is to delay symptoms of the disease only. Even though many pharmaceutical companies have been trying to push their products on the pharmacy shelves, since 2006 Federal Drug Administration has approved only four drugs such as Razadyne, Cognex, Exalon, and Aricept. Use of those drugs and their availability to every single patient affected by Alzheimer’s, is not affordable because a monthly supply costs on average $200.00 per individual and health insurance companies do not cover them. That’s why more and more Alzheimer’s patients attach to alternative medicine. It is cheaper, more convenient, and it is based on cultural traditions. Not only that, but also the alternative medicine has fewer side effects compared to conventional medicine and doctors believe that this way of treatment of those who have been affected by Alzheimer’s disease is more preferable.

To conclude, even though the Alzheimer’s is related to increasing age, it does not mean that everyone who gets older gets affected by it. There are no rules when we talk about this sneaking and merciless disease, but yes, those who are the carries of the gene APOE4 and those who are over age of 65 certainly are on higher risk of developing it. Neither does it mean that every affected patient will have the same outcome. Knowing not only the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, but also its causes, stages and available treatments, would help most individuals affected by it, their caregivers, but most their physicians to approach it from every single angle and stand up against it with available possibilities, all with the idea and goal to make one’s life longer and more valuable.

References:

“Diseases and Conditions – MayoClinic.com.” Mayo Clinic. 11 Dec. 2011. Web. 13 Jan. 2014. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/DiseasesIndex/DiseasesIndex>. 

Sabbagh, Marwan Noel. The Alzheimer’s Answer: Reduce Your Risk and Keep Your Brain Healthy. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print.

 

 

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