Alzheimer’s disease, which is described by medical science as a “progressive neurologic disorder” causes the brain to shrink, resulting in a phenomenon called atrophy. It also causes the death of brain cells. This disease is probably the most common cause of dementia which causes a constant decline in the thought process of human beings and also in the decline of behavioral and social skills that will affect the diseased person’s ability to function without any external help.
This disease is mostly found in people who have passed the boundaries of 65 years old. Out of this, recent studies have found that 80% of the total people who are affected with Alzheimer’s are aged past 80. Old people who suffer from dementia run the risk of also suffering from Alzheimer’s by nearly 60 to 70 percent.
The early signs of Alzheimer’s include forgetting recent events, conversations, developing severe memory impairment as the disease progresses further. As the disease progresses, the people suffering from this will slowly lose their ability to perform or do tasks independently, and even doing everyday tasks will appear very hard to them.
Medication is there for this disease but unfortunately, it can not cure it completely. It will slow down the rate of spread of the disease but won’t be able to wipe it out completely. There is still some work going on in this field and who knows, when will someone finally discover a cure that will enable the doctors to completely wipe out Alzheimer’s from one body?
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
The first thing that Alzheimer’s effects in the human body are our ability to remember. Memory loss is the key symbol of this disease. When it starts, initially you will have trouble remembering recent events or conversations.
But as it progresses slowly you’ll start to forget everything regarding your surrounding and some people in the final stages of this disease retain no memory of who they are. If someone close to you is suffering from Alzheimer’s, they will repeat the same questions and the same statements over and over again, they will forget conversations, appointments and routinely misplace and lose possessions.
They will get lost even though they are in their familiar surroundings. They will eventually start to forget the names of their family members and will have trouble finding the right word to describe objects, even those of daily use.
They will face difficulty in concentrating on something and having coherent thoughts, specifically about abstract concepts. They will have trouble multitasking and encounter various problems when managing their finances, balancing checkbook, and paying bills on time. It also causes a decline in the ability to think and make reasonable decisions and judgments.
Routine activities become very hard to do if you’re suffering from Alzheimer’s. The moods and behaviors also get affected if you’ve Alzheimer’s. People suffering from Alzheimer’s have the tendency to develop Depression, Social Withdrawal, Apathy, Mood Swings, and Distrust in Others.
Many important skills which ensure your chances of survival will deteriorate over time if you have Alzheimer’s.
What are the causes of Alzheimer’s?
Even though a lot of research has been done in this field, the exact cause of Alzheimer’s hasn’t been found yet. But basically what happens is that brain protein fails to function in the normal way which disrupts the usual way brain cells work and then causes their death which triggers a series of toxic events.
Research has shown that Alzheimer’s disease is mostly caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors which affect the brain over time. Even though the genetic cause has been mentioned here, less than 1% of the time, Alzheimer’s is caused due by the presence of a specific genetic change that virtually guarantees that the bearer will develop this disease.
This rare presence of genetic change will cause a person to develop this disease even before they are old. The onset of the disease mainly affects that region of the brain that controls the memory but the process usually begins many years before the first symptom is noticed. The loss of neurons over time slowly spreads to other parts of the brain.
The pattern of the damage caused to the neurons is quite predictable. During the later stages, it has been seen that the brain has shrunk comparatively.
Mainly two brain proteins play a key role when it comes to analyzing the onset of Alzheimer’s. The first is called Plaques. The main constituent of this is beta-amyloid which is a fragment of a larger protein. When these fragments cluster together, they tend to have a toxic effect on the neurons which disrupt the communication between the cells.
The second one called Tangles is formed of tau proteins which play a role in supporting the neuron’s internal and transporting the nutrients and other essential materials.
If someone suffers from Alzheimer’s, their tau protein will change shape and organize itself into structures which are then called Neurofibrillary tangles that disrupt the aforementioned transport system and is toxic to the cells.
New Genes Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease:
Chunshui Yu and Mulin Jun, researchers at the Tianjin Medical University have led a research team that has discovered two new genes which are potentially linked to Alzheimer’s. They identified the genes by exploring which genes are turned on and off in the hippocampus of the people who are suffering from this disease. Their research regarding this was published in PLOS Genetics.
The hippocampus is that part of the brain which controls the brain is one of the first regions in the brain that falls under the grip of this disease. To find out which genes are most affected by this disease, the researchers first identified the genes that expressed higher or lower levels in the hippocampus of the people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and compared that to those of healthy brain.
After they conducted the research, they found out that 24 Alzheimer’s-related genes appeared to have an effect through the hippocampus by using previous genomic and hippocampus gene expression data. Some of the genes had also appeared at other tests which usually were concerned with finding the genes that contribute to this disease.
Some were also involved in the biological process that is related to the disease itself, such as plaque information and cell death. The two unknown genes are called PTPN9 and PCDHA4.
The research team further validated their findings by comparing the expressions of the genes to that of two dozen other genes by comparing them to images of individuals’ brains. The brain shrinkage caused by Alzheimer’s can be measured through medical imaging. By doing this, the researchers established that the expression of two of the genes is related to the size of the hippocampus and is concerned with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Prevention of Alzheimer’s:
Alzheimer’s disease is complex and it is highly unlikely that you will be able to find a cure to treat it completely. However, in recent years scientists have tremendous contributions to understanding the disease better and in developing and testing new treatments.
Several prescription drugs have been approved by the FDA which help to manage the symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s. They provided accelerated approval for the new medication, aducanumab, which will help to reduce amyloid deposits in the brain and that will help to slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s, even at the early stage when it hasn’t shown any clinical signs.
The medicines mostly work best for people who are either in the early or the middle stage of the disease. However, it should be always kept in mind that none of the medicines will ever be able to cure Alzheimer’s completely.
Treatment for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s:
Treating the symptoms of this disease will ensure that the person suffering from this will get comfort, dignity and can enjoy their independence for a longer period of time. They can also encourage and assist their caregivers.
Galantamine, rivastigmine, and donepezil are basically cholinesterase inhibitors that are prescribed to people who are suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s syndrome. These drugs usually help to reduce or control cognitive and behavioral symptoms.
They usually help by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine which is a brain chemical that is important for the process of memory and thinking. Some disease-modifying drugs also can help in the cure of Alzheimer’s but always contact your physician before starting the medicine.
Treatment for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s:
Memantine which is a -methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist is usually prescribed to patients who are suffering from severe or moderate Alzheimer’s. This medicine basically helps to reduce the symptom of the disease so that the person suffering from this disease, under the influence of the drug can maintain their daily function.
In the later stages of this disease, this medicine helps the diseased to use the bathroom independently for several more months, which is beneficial to both the person consuming the person and the caregiver who is there to assist the diseased.