Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of dementia that most people have seen personally in some form or another. Whether the symptoms show in an aging family member or friend, the experience is physically and mentally exhausting to not only the diagnosed but to loved ones as well. Many, however, do not know the extent of the disease. Memory loss is not the only affect Alzheimer’s has on the brain; the disease is far more complex than that.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the number one occurring form of dementia, a general term for any mental disease that causes someone to be unable to think clearly. The disease is the cause for over fifty percent of all cases. One misconception with the disease is that Alzheimer’s is part of aging. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Though common in the elderly, up to five percent of all cases have early-onset, which appears in the forty to fifty age range.
Alzheimer’s Disease progressively worsens over time. The symptoms take years to ...view middle of the document...
In the final stage of Alzheimer's, individuals will need help with much of their daily personal care, including bathing or eating.. They may also lose the ability to smile, to sit without support and to hold their heads up.
So what exactly is Alzheimer's Disease? While scientists do not have a solid answer, they do have a few hypotheses. The brain has billions upon billions of nerve cells called neurons. Each neuron connects with many others to form communication networks. Each neuron network has a unique job in the brain. Some are involved in thinking, learning and remembering, while others help with perceiving the five senses, sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smelling. To do their tasks well, the neuron networks operate like microscopic factories; they receive supplies, generate energy, construct equipment, and remove waste. The networks also process and store information and communicate with one another. Keeping everything running requires coordination as well as large amounts of energy and oxygen. Scientists believe Alzheimer's Disease prevents parts of these tiny factories from running. Backups and breakdowns in one system cause problems in other areas. They are not sure what causes the neuron networks to stop functioning correctly. As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs and, eventually die, causing irreversible changes in the brain.
Some scientists also believe that plaques and tangles have a major role in Alzheimer’s Disease. Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid that build up in the spaces between nerve cells; tangles are twisted fibers of another protein called tau that build up inside cells. Though the majority of people develop some plaques and tangles as they age, those with Alzheimer's tend to develop far more. Plaques and tangles also tend to develop in a predictable pattern, usually beginning in areas important for memory before spreading to other regions. Though scientists do not know what function plaques and tangles perform in Alzheimer’s disease, many experts believe that they play a critical role in blocking communication between the brain’s neuron networks and disturb the process that cells need to survive. The destruction of the neuron cells causes the memory failure, personality changes, and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.