What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?


It starts with minor memory lapses, like getting people’s names confused or forgetting where you put the keys to the car. At this stage, it’s nothing more than an old running joke that other family members get a laugh out of during get-togethers. But then, as time goes, it begins to affect other aspects of your life, including work, and disrupts daily routine. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself wondering how to flush the toilet, figuring out what the switch on the wall is for, and countless menial tasks that you used to take for granted. Or, you’d wake up one morning and find that you can’t see anything. Panicking with the certainty that you have gone blind, things become more eerie when the wife tells you that your eyes are closed. You forgot to open it. You forgot how to.

Alzheimer’s disease as the above disorder is called, affects millions (4.5, according to the most recent study) of people over the age of 65. If you take the scientific view, Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, a brain disorder that seriously affects a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. Mostly, the disease manifests and its symptoms are seen after the age of 60. The worse the symptoms become, the older a person gets.

During the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language are affected. At this moment, scientists have yet to discover what triggers Alzheimer’s disease and the cure, but countless research is being done and have been successful in helping patients with this condition cope.

How Alzheimer’s Disease Got Its Name

Alzheimer’s disease was first discovered in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer (hence, the name). Dr. Alzheimer had a woman patient who died of an unusual mental illness. While studying her condition, the doctor noticed changes in the patient’s brain tissue, such as abnormal clumps (known as amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (called neurofibrillary tangles). Years later, these plaques and tangles in the brain are considered as common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Other signs of Alzheimer’s disease that later scientists discovered include dead nerve cells in the memory and cognitive areas of the brain, disrupted connections between nerve cells, and low levels of neurochemicals, all of which result in impaired thinking and memory.

Treatment
As mentioned, there is no cure yet for Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, what treatment options are available do not guarantee a halt in disease progression. How fast or how slow the disease progresses vary from patient to patient, but the average is that patients with Alzheimer’s disease generally live from eight to ten years after they are diagnosed. If, however, the patient is diagnosed in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the drugs like tacrine, donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine may help prevent some of the symptoms from becoming worse.