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Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the most widespread types of dementia that occurs in aged people. Dementia refers to a brain disorder that seriously interferes with the ability of a person to execute his daily activities effectively. As populations age, Alzheimer’s disease becomes more of a social, medical and public health concern because of its occurrence rate and effects. Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that affects the brain and causes serious problems with respect to thinking, memory, and eventual behavior. Alzheimer’s disease starts as a mild case and gets worse over time.
Despite the fact that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease vary, most of the people who are affected report forgetfulness as the first problem. It is severe to the extent of affecting their ability to function at home or at work effectively. There are certain causes, incidences, or risk factors that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease occurs in people who are old, but the disease is not a part of the normal aging. It also occurs in people who have close relatives, such as a sister, brother or a parent who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. People who are female, those with a high blood pressure, and people with a history of head trauma are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The disease is mostly diagnosed after 65 years of age. More than 5million of the U.S citizens have the disease (Bradbury & Brodney, 2008).
There are two types of Alzheimer’s disease that are the early onset Alzheimer’s disease and the late onset Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms of the early onset Alzheimer’s disease occur at the age of 60, and it is not as common as the late onset Alzheimer’s disease. However, the early onset Alzheimer’s disease tends to get worse faster and can run in families. Some genes have been found that are responsible for the reason of occurring the disease in families. The disease is transmitted in the form of autosomal dominant trait caused by mutations in three genes that include presenilin-1, presenilin-2 and amyloidal precursor protein. This type affects only 10 percent of people who develop the disease before the age of 65 years old. The late onset Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type and occurs mainly after the age of 65 years. It may occur as a familial case, but the role of genes in spreading the disease is minimally clear. The condition affects about 5 percent of people who are over 65 years old and more than 20 percent of people who are over 85 years old. Most of the early and late onset disease cases occur sporadically. Both genetic and environmental issues contribute to the spread of the disease. Despite the fact that the cause of the disease is not clearly known, the factors such as lead, aluminum, and mercury are no longer considered the factors that cause Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, the occurrence of the disease can be credited to numerous issues that include single gene mutations and combination of the environmental and genetic factors (Shiel, n.d.).
Alzheimer’s disease has several symptoms that include a difficulty in most areas of brain functioning, such as language, memory, perception, emotional behavior control, personality and thinking and judgment (cognitive skills). It appears in the form of forgetfulness. Alzheimer’s disease affects most people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), who have difficulties in doing several tasks concurrently, difficulty in solving problems and constantly forgetting the recent activities like conversations. Early signs of the disease include getting lost in the familiar routes, misplacing things, personality changes and language problems. As the disease progresses, the affected persons change sleep patterns, have delusions, experience difficulty in writing and reading, and withdraw from social contacts. They can also have hallucinations among other symptoms (Soukup, 1996).
Alzheimer’s disease has seven stages of development that act as the general guides. They include “no impairment, very mild decline, mild cognitive decline, moderate cognitive decline, moderately severe cognitive decline, severe cognitive decline, and very severe cognitive decline” (Nordqvist, 2010).
A skilled health worker, such as a neurologist, a psychiatrist, or a psychologist who specializes in brain disorders can perform several tests in the diagnosis of the disease. The doctor can complete a physical exam including a neurological exam, ask questions of medical history, and do a mental status exam. MRI tests can also be done (Nordqvist, 2010).
Unfortunately, nowadays, there is no cure of Alzheimer’s disease. However, both drug and non-drug treatments can be used for cognitive and behavioral symptoms. Possible medications include Donepezil, Rivastigmine, Galantamine, and Memantine. The goals are to bring down the development of the disease, manage the symptoms, especially the behavior problems. It is useful to change the home environment so that patients can do their daily activities with less difficulty and support caregivers and family members. There has been a belief that certain supplements rich in vitamin B6, B12 and E can prevent the disease or slow its progress. However, no evidence has been shown to support that (Brill, 2005).
In conclusion, Alzheimer’s disease affects brain functioning of the aged people starting from age 60. The quickness of the disease progressing is person specific. Patients with Alzheimer’s often die earlier than expected, but most live between 3 and 20 years after diagnosis. Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the genetic and environmental issues. It has many symptoms but is mostly characterized by forgetfulness and language difficulty. There are two types of the disease including early onset Alzheimer’s disease and late onset Alzheimer’s disease. The disease is unpreventable and has no known cure.
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