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Alzheimer's Disease, Includes A .Bmp Diagram Not Visible In Ansii

2506 words - 10 pages

We are currently living in the age of technology. Our advancements in the past fewdecades overshadow everything learned in the last 2000 years. With the elimination of manydiseases through effective cures and treatments, Canadians can expect to live a much longer lifethen that of their grandparents. In 1900 about 4% of the Canadian population was over the age of65. In 1989 that figure tripled to 12% and the government expects that figure to rise to 23% bythe year 2030 (Medical,1991,p.13). This increase has brought with it a large increase in diseasesassociated with old age. Alzheimer's dementia (AD) is one of the most common and feareddiseases afflicting the elderly community. AD, once thought to be a natural part of aging, is aseverely debilitating form of mental dementia. Although some other types of dementia are curableor effectively treatable, there is currently no cure for the Alzheimer variety.A general overview of Alzheimer's disease including the clinical description, diagnosis,and progression of symptoms, helps one to further understand the treatment and care of patients,the scope of the problem, and current research.The clinical definition of dementia is 'a deterioration in intellectual performance thatinvolves, but is not limited to, a loss in at least 2 of the following areas: language, judgement,memory, visual or depth perception, or judgement interfering with daily activities' (Institute,1996,p.4).The initial cause of AD symptoms is a result of the progressive deterioration of brain cells(neurons) in the cerebral cortex of the brain. This area of the brain, which is the largest anduppermost portion, controls all our thought processes, movement, speech, and senses. Thisdeterioration initially starts in the area of the cortex that is associated with memory and thenprogresses into other areas of the cortex, then into other areas of the brain that control bodilyfunction. The death of these cells causes an interruption of the electrochemical signals betweenneurons that are a key to cognitive as well as bodily functioning.Currently AD can only be confirmed at autopsy. After death the examined brain of anAlzheimer victim shows two distinct characteristics. The first is the presence of neuritic plaques inthe cerebral cortex and other areas of the brain including cerebral blood vessels. These plaquesconsist of groups of neurons surrounded by deposits of beta-amyloid protein. The presence ofthese plaques is also common to other types of dementia.The second characteristic, neurofibliary tangles, is what separates AD from all other formsof dementia. Neurofibliary tangles take place within the disconnected brain cells themselves.When examined under a microscope diseased cells appear to contain spaghetti-like tangles ofnormally straight nerve fibers. The presence of these tangles was first discovered in 1906 by theGerman neurologist Alois Alzheimer, hence the name Alzheimer's disease.Although the characteristics listed above are crucial to the...

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