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There are hundreds of diseases that affect the brain. Every day, we fight these diseases just as vehemently as they afflict their carriers. Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, autism, and strokes are just five of the most lethal and debilitating diseases that afflict human brains.
Parkinson’s disease alone claims up to 18,000 lives a year (Hagerman 1). But what is it? Parkinson’s disease occurs when a brain chemical called dopamine begins to die in a region that facilitates muscle movement. Consequently, the body reacts, neurons start to fire up abnormally, leading to tremors (Hagerman 1). So far, this disease is not fully understood or curable. However, dopamine-boosting drugs can help manage the tremors in the early stages of the disease, but these become less effective over time (Hagerman 1).
How it works
Alzheimer’s disease occurs when proteins in the brain jumble up genetic instructions and cause them to tangle or wedge between nerve cells (Hagerman 1). This process causes the neurons to shut down and die, leading to memory loss, dementia, and eventually death (Hagerman 1). There isn’t any definitive treatment or cure to halt the progression of Alzheimer’s. However, there are drugs that can influence chemicals in the brain, enabling cells to communicate more effectively, making the carrier’s memory and thought processes clearer (Hagerman 1).
Depression seems to be one of the most common diseases, yet it is also the most easily treated. It occurs when brain cells fail to forge new connections with each other. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability (Hagerman 1). The numbers fluctuate drastically, making it hard to pinpoint an exact figure, but depression causes around 30,000 suicides each year in the United States alone (Hagerman 1). That sums up to a suicide nearly every 16-20 minutes. Both medical prescriptions and psychological practices exist to relieve the symptoms of depression and potentially cure it with mental motivation (Hagerman 1).
Autism is a condition wherein parts of a child’s brain develop too quickly, causing the cells to duplicate in insulation layers that may facilitate growth (Hagerman 1). Common symptoms usually include a lack of social skills, social impairment, behavioral issues, and high levels of anxiety. Currently, there is no known treatment for autism, but drugs are available to alleviate some compulsive behaviors (Hagerman 1). Therapy and computer programs have also been made accessible to help autistic patients practice and improve their language and social skills (Hagerman 1).
A stroke is an interruption of blood flow triggered by a rupture, similar to a heart attack, only it happens in the brain (Hagerman 1). It’s the third leading cause of death in the United States and a predominant cause of dementia and physical disability (Hagerman 1). Strokes can be prevented by regular check-ups and immediate removal of any found clots.
All diseases, no matter their severity or type, require extensive research and improved medications to aid those affected and to find a cure. Between Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression, autism, and strokes, an estimated 20 million Americans are severely affected.
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