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Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease by Farahnaz Shahi

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There are two types of dementia – reversible and non reversible. The reversible, which  is very rare, is treatable by treating the causes  such as depression, drug intoxication, brain tumors, changes in blood sugar, sodium, and calcium levels, low  vitamin B12 levels, use of certain medications, including Cimetidine, and some cholesterol-lowering medications. On the other hand, the irreversible dementia, in which there is a degenerative change in the brain, cannot be treated. The irreversible dementia has different causes such as:  Alzheimer’s disease, vascular diseases, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Infections that can affect the brain such as HIV/AIDS, and Lyme disease. Many years ago, the scientists believed in the role of aluminum in producing dementia, but now this hypothesis is not very strong.  Alzheimer is the most common type of degenerative dementia (50-80%) in which the brain loss some function such as memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior.

Although Alzheimer is more common among the elderly people, more than 65 years old, the younger people are not safe too (in 40s or 50s).  There are some risk factors such as aging, genetic, and family history.  The existence of Alzheimer in a family is an alert for the role of both genetic and environment, but the most significant risk factor is aging. Degeneration happens in the brain and neural cells are the target of this disease. The neurons lose their function, which is conduction of the electrical discharge.  Plus the function of neurotransmitters is disturbed, too. The neurons degenerate and shrink progressively, and the brain begins to atrophy and lose most of its function.

The most noticeable sign is memory loss, especially short memories, which is progressive and affects daily life. The patient does not remember the date, name and recent information and asks repeatedly. They have difficulty managing a problem or performing a specific project due to concentration weakness impotence. They may have a problem in visual and spatial perception that makes it hard for them to read or judge the distance. They also incapable of doing ordinary tasks in late stage of disease like cooking, showering, driving, or billing. In addition, they lose the track of date and place. What time of year it is or where they are. In fact, they are lost in time and place. They also present nonsense talking due to some disorders in using vocabularies and finding the correct word. They are not able to find their stuff, or they cannot remember where they place them; as a result, they condemn their entourage of stealing. Plus, their judgment is weak and cannot make a correct and suitable decision. They usually are incapable to keep clean themselves. Moreover, they do not enjoy social life anymore and become depressed, anxious, and suspicious.  There are some complications such as dehydration, malnutrition, repeated fall and broken bones, violent behavior, urine and pulmonary infection, and bedsore due to immobility.

Diagnosis of Alzheimer depends on more than one procedure such as medical history, physical and neurological exam, and psychological test. Blood test and CT scan or MRI is performed to help  treat  the reversible dementia. Although Alzheimer people live an average of eight years, some others live until 20 years and others less than 5 years. It depends on their health condition and the age of diagnosis.

Until today, the scientists have not found any cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and all treatments are symptomatic treatment to the extent to slow their symptoms for a while and ameliorate their quality of their life. Some believe in the effects of vitamin B12, B9, and E, but there is not any scientific proof and evidence that these vitamins decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The causes of death, most of the time, are dehydration or infection.


Word Cited

“What Is Alzheimer’s?” Alzheimer’s Association, 7 Oct. 2010. Web. 17 Oct.

“Alzheimer’s Disease.” Health Guide.The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 2010.
Web. 17 Oct. 2011.


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