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Contrast The Symptoms Of Alzheimer's Disease With Those Of Parkinson's Disease. What Causes These Different Symptoms And How Does This Affect The Treatment Of These Disorders?

3174 words - 13 pages

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by abnormal clumps (amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibres (neurofibrillary tangles) composed of misplaced proteins in the brain. It is by far the most common cause of dementia (Please see Fig. 1). First described and named after the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer, it can occur sporadically, or in a genetic form called Familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD). Victims of AD are frequently unaware that they have the disease and initial suspicions are often raised by relatives or friends who may identify one or more symptoms. It is an insidious disease that is usually fatal within 10 years of onset and the first symptom will usually be the loss of short-term memory, followed by difficulties in time and spatial perception, communication, reading and writing. Midway through the progression of AD as the brain has started to shrink, patients will lose the ability to recognize friends and family and also their own reflection in a mirror. In the final stage of the disease, all intellectual function will break down; the ability to chew and swallow will be lost, as will the control of bowel and bladder functions. The patient will need constant care, respiratory problems will worsen, and eventually they will die, most likely from infection.Fig. 1 - Causes of Dementia in the UKParkinson's disease (PD) is a chronic, progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects the nervous system. Idiopathic PD is the most common form of Parkinsonism (a group of movement disorders that have similar features and symptoms) and the cause of the disorder is largely unknown as opposed to other forms of Parkinsonism. Dr. James Parkinson discovered the disease in 1817 and identified it as shaky palsy. It was not until 1960 that changes in the brains of Parkinson's patients were discovered, making it possible to develop medication for the condition. The symptoms of PD often begin around the age of 55, and the disease is characterised by a decrease in spontaneous movement, gait difficulty, postural instability, rigidity, and tremors that get worse over time. In PD, production of a substance called dopamine (a neurotransmitter involved in passing messages within the brain and from the brain to the muscles) is reduced. The part of the brain affected is called the substantia nigra, which co-ordinates muscle movement. When dopamine production is depleted, the motor system nerves are unable to control movement and coordination. PD patients have usually lost 80% or more of their dopamine-producing cells by the time symptoms appear, and whilst the cause of the disease is unknown, genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a part. Most people who get Parkinson's are over 60, but there have recently been more cases in younger men and women.In terms of symptoms, AD can be very upsetting for the friends and family of a sufferer who will notice a rapid decline over a relatively short space of...

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