The Underlying Cause Of Alzheimer's Disease

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Dementias are neurodegenerative disorders and Alzheimer’s disease is just one type. Although the most frequent cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, there are many causes of dementia. Saying someone has dementia is actually not a diagnosis it’s more of a clinical syndrome. Like saying someone has heartburn or a headache, the underlying cause of the dementia must be uncovered in order to classify it. Dementia impairs cognitive function in many different ways. It can involve memory, language, thinking, reasoning, and perception (Radin, 2003, p. 29). Some classifications of dementia include: frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, Alzheimer’s disease, and vascular dementia, but other degenerative diseases such as Huntington’s…show more content…
More than five million are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States and the number is set to almost triple by the year 2050. It is common in the elderly and generally occurs in persons over 65 years of age, but early onset of Alzheimer’s has also been documented (“Alzheimer’s disease facts,” 2016, para. 1). It starts in the medial temporal area of the brain, usually in the hippocampus, and then spreads to other areas of the brain. Blows (2011) explains, “Alois Alzheimer was a German psychiatrist who in 1906 described a dementia with two specific changes found in the brain after death... these changes were the presence of extracellular plaques and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles and these became the hallmarks of this disease” (p. 286). Loss of neurons takes place and amyloid plaques form. This is due to build-up of non-functioning proteins and can be observed by imaging techniques (Radin, 2003, p. 41). There are many risk factors that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The greatest risk factor is family history, but other risk factors include diabetes, hypertension obesity, hyperlipidemia, smoking, depression, physical inactivity, low estrogen levels, and head trauma (Huether & McCance, 2014, p. 546). The actual cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown, but there are genes associated with it that make the disease heritable. What is clear is that…show more content…
Alzheimer’s disease begins with memory loss, particularly short-term memory, and can end in loss of all cognitive function. Other losses include the ability to learn, to orient oneself to time and place, and to concentrate. Later, personality and behavioral problems develop such as irritability, agitation, and restlessness. Mood changes occur as well causing depression, frustration, anxiety, hostility, and mood swings. For some it can cause motor changes such as rigidity. Some of the worst possibilities include hallucinations and delusions, but usually that is not until the later stages. Nutrition is a big concern for those with Alzheimer’s as they may refuse to eat (Huether & McCance, 2014, p. 549). There are not many drugs used for Alzheimer’s disease. Mostly drugs are prescribed to treat the symptoms or mood changes such as psychotropic medications. The only drugs that are specifically for Alzheimer’s do not arrest the disease, but instead have a small chance at slowing it down. These drugs include Donepezil, Galantamine, and Rivastigmine are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors that cause less breakdown of acetylcholine and therefore higher levels of acetylcholine in the brain circuits that are lacking this neurotransmitter due to neuronal cell death. Side effects of these drugs include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, insomnia, and rarely syncope (Blows, 2011, p. 296). Other
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