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I chose to do my research paper on Alzheimer’s Disease. I chose this topic, because several family members of mine has and are still continuing to suffer from this disease. Sadly, this disease is very debilitating to the patient, and is very exhausting to the family.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder, that is progressive, degenerative, and irreversible disease that result of brain cells death, which then causes memory loss and cognitive deterioration. With the patient having memory loss and cognitive deterioration, it affects their daily life.
Alzheimer’s disease is also the most common form of dementia and holds a high statistic of 60% to 80% of the dementia cases. Alzheimer’s disease is also not the normal part if the aging process. Alzheimer’s disease has three stages (mild, moderate, and severe) in which the patient gets their deterioration categorized. The symptoms appear very gradually in a patient.
Alzheimer’s Disease does not have a specific pinpointed cause yet, but scientist believe that it is caused by genetics, lifestyle habits, and environmental factors.
The genetics factors are inherited from your family genes that is passed down from person to person. The lifestyle habits include, the dietary habits, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are just a few that can influence. The environmental factors include head traumas and other injuries that occurred. Also, Alzheimer’s causes tangles (known as twisted fibers of another protein called tau) that builds up in the cells, and protein deposits known as plague (deposit of protein fragments known as beta-amyloid) that build up and form in spaces between the nerve cells.
Alzheimer’s disease got its name after Doctor Alois Alzheimer a German psychiatrist. In 1906, Doctor Alois Alzheimer’s began noticing a change in woman’s brain tissue who had died from unusual mental illnesses. She had symptoms that included language problems, memory loss, and unpredictable behaviors. After the woman died, Doctor Alzheimer did an autopsy on the patient’s brain and found abnormal clumps now known as plagues and tangled up bundles of fibers now known as tau. These tangles and plagues are still known as the classic features in the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient.
The history of Alzheimer’s disease began in 1906 when Doctor Alois Alzheimer discovered it. In 1974, the United States Congress established the National Institute of Aging (NIA) as part of the National Institutes of Health. The National Institute of Aging is to better understand the aging process and promote a greater quality of life for the geriatrics patients. It is also a federal government’s main source of funding Alzheimer’s research. In 1976, a neurologist named Doctor Robert Katzman named Alzheimer’s disease as the most common form of dementia.
In 1979, Jerome Stone and other family members of the Alzheimer’s support groups met with the National Institute of Aging, and by 1980 the Alzheimer’s Association was formed. The Alzheimer’s Associations goals were to help provide services to those families suffering with the Alzheimer’s disease. They also pushed for more federal research of the disease. In 1984, Beta-amyloids were discovered, and two years later in 1986 tau were discovered in those suffering Alzheimer’s disease. In 1978, the National Institute of Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association began working with Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Company, known today as Pfizer and started he first trial of a drug intended to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It wasn’t until 1993, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug Tacrine.
Within the next decade four more drugs were approved. In 1993, former President Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He was one of the first well known public figure to be diagnosed with this disease. In 2004, Reagan died from complications with Alzheimer’ disease and pneumonia. In 2003, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute of Aging began accepting people in the National Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic study. This is where researchers began taking blood samples from people in families who had more than one person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and store the blood samples for research. In 2011, President Barack Obama signed a law with the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA.) The National Alzheimer’s Project Act was the first law that outlined a strategy nationally for care of patients with Alzheimer’s and for research. One year later in 2012, the law was released with a goal set, that by 2025 that there would be prevention methods for Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is transmitted through genetics. Alzheimer’s is spread in the brain like an infection from brain cell to brain cell. Unlike an infection, Alzheimer’s isn’t contagious to anymore through, contact (touching, kissing, or hugging) or droplet (coughing or sneezing.) This disease is contained into one single being.
With Alzheimer’s disease, there are signs and symptoms that show with the cognitive ability. The mobrst noted first sign of Alzheimer’s disease is cognitive problems also known as mild cognitive impairment. In this disease, people have more memory problems that the normal person of the patient’s age. Also, patient’s may have an issue with their sense of smell as a first sign. Generally, the first signs are ignored due to the fact that person associate the signs as part of the aging process. The first symptoms vary depending on the person. The symptoms are non-memory issues like impaired judgment and reasoning, vision issues, and word finding.
As the disease progresses into mild Alzheimer’s, the patient may be found wandering around, having problems managing money, taking more time to complete their activities of daily living, and repeating questions. As the disease continues to progress at the moderate stage, the patient isn’t able to carry out multi step task like getting dressed, they have more memory loss and confusion. At this stage, hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions began and may be impulsive. At the severe Alzheimer’s stage, the brain has shrunk drastically. In this stage the patient is bed bound and near the end of their life. They have forgot how to swallow and forget how to communicate. This is when the patient eventually will forget to breath and die.
The only true way to get a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease is after the patient dies, they do an autopsy on the patient’s brain. However, there are several tests that can be performed while the patient is alive that can help treat the patient. The doctor may ask the patient or family member about the patient’s overall health, past medical questions, change in behavior, and their overall status on how the patient does their activities of daily living. The doctor also can conduct test of the memory, attention, language, problem solving, and counting. If more test need conducting, the doctor may order urine and blood test to rule out any problems. The bigger test that can be ran to rule out possible symptoms causes are positron emission tomography (PET), computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI.)
Although treatment for Alzheimer’s very broad, it is very unlikely that the patient will be on just one medication. The doctors are trying to focus on treating the behavior issues and maintaining the mental function. They also are trying to slow the memory loss. The treatments for treating behavioral issues such as anxiety, sleeplessness, agitation, aggression, and wandering. There are several medications now that can help maintain the mental function like, Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne, and Namenda.
Since Alzheimer’s appears gradually, the onset to death is anywhere from three to twenty years. As it begins it will start with memory loss and end with bed bound until death. There is no way to prove how long a person with Alzheimer’s will live.
With all the continuous research on Alzheimer’s, there is hope to be a cure one day. Sadly, until the cure is discovered and released, families will continuously suffer. As for now, we will continue treating the symptoms.
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