Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition where the neurons degenerate in the brain, while the brain substance shrinks in volume. Alzheimer’s is also the number one cause of dementia. When it was first noticed, Alzheimer’s was thought to be a pre-senile disease, but now it is known to be responsible for seventy-five percent of the dementia cases in people over sixty-five years of age. Alzheimer’s disease usually causes several years of personal and intellectual decline until death. Because there is an increasing number of elderly citizens in the United States, research into the causes and possible cures for the disease is on the rise (1).
Several theories have been made concerning factors that may cause the condition; however, the cause remains unknown. Some suggest that it may be caused by some type of chronic infection or from exposure to a metal that may be toxic, such as aluminum (1). This line of belief originated from high levels of aluminum deposits being found in Alzheimer’s brain lesions (2). It is also known that people with Alzheimer’s have reduced levels of brain chemicals, such as acetylcholine (1). Additionally, people with Down’s Syndrome are more likely to acquire this dementia, with about fifteen percent of Alzheimer’s patients showing a family history of this disease. This leads many scientists to believe that there is a genetic link to the disease. When twins have been studied, a high agreement rate has been found for the disease. Furthermore, there is sometimes a very dominant pattern of inheritance of this disease, where a person has a fifty percent chance of acquiring it if either parent has Alzheimer’s (autosomal dominant transmission) (1,2).
It is rare to acquire Alzheimer’s disease before the age of sixty; however, the risk increases steadily after that age. It is estimated that up to thirty percent of the people over the age of eighty-five years are affected (1). Also, women are thought to be at a slightly higher risk than men (4).
The symptoms of the disease vary somewhat among individuals. However, there are three distinct stages that a person suffering from Alzheimer’s will experience. In the first stage, the patient experiences some problems with memory loss and will often make lists or other aids to compensate for this loss. The individual can begin to feel depressed or anxious because of the memory problems. This stage often Goes unnoticed as symptoms of Alzheimer’s (1).
The second stage is marked by the change from forgetfulness to severe memory loss. Long-aGo events are often easier to recall than things that have happened within the last few days. For example, one might remember childhood events but are unable to remember what they saw on television last night or what they ate for breakfast. Disorientation in relation to time and place occurs often, along with increased anxiety and recurring mood swings. The patient also experiences dysphasia (inability in finding...