The disease I will be discussing is Alzheimer’s Disease “AD”. AD affects the brain, nervous and vascular system. As AD progresses to later stages of the disease more organ systems are affected. Alzheimer’s Disease is a “progressive and irreversible neurodegenerative brain disorder that causes a significant disruption of normal brain structure and functions” Lane, Hardy, & Schott, (2018). Alzheimer’s is the most common form of “Dementia”, it is steady decline in cognitive, behavioral and physical abilities, that can become severe enough to affect activities of daily living and ultimately is fatal.
Alzheimer’s Disease is not a normal part of aging. With normal healthy aging the brain typically shrinks to some degree, but neurons are not lost in large numbers. With Alzheimer’s disease damage to neurons are widespread, many to most stop functioning and connections with neurons are lost and die off. AD usually destroys neurons and connections in the brain that controls memory, including the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus. As the disease advances it damages other areas of brain. Brain’s affected by Alzheimer’s disease do not have normal functioning microglia cells, which normally engulf and destroys waste, debris and protein cells which include plaque. As that happens, it causes chronic inflammation which damages the neurons they are meant to protect and causes tangles within the neurons. There is also an abnormal buildup of amyloid protein that causes the memory loss and intellectual function loss. The gradual loss of the ability to live life and function independently is lost as a whole. This disease is always fatal with no known cure. Alzheimer’s as a whole cause the brain to forget, which causes a loss in skills that affects everyday living. As this disease advances, other diagnosis that a person might have will be affected due to the loss of brain functions. You forget and no longer have the skills to socialize, bathe, how to take your medication, how to eat and even how to breathe. If you are forgetting to eat, you are losing weight and failing to thrive. Forgetting how to take your medication, could cause countless issues depending on what other illness you might have going on. If you are forgetting how to bathe, you could be introducing hygiene and circulation issues. Ultimately, you lose the ability of muscle control which could have you bedridden and susceptible to infections due to pressure ulcers. National Institute on Aging (2017). A normal healthy brain/body maintains homeostasis on any given day, but with Alzheimer’s disease the brain and body are compromised and start changing where a healthy physiological state is no longer maintained on a daily basis and neuron cells start to die off.
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Alzheimer disease has no one single method of clinical testing, doctors use several different methods to find the best possible diagnosis. Someone can be exhibiting symptoms but have an underlying medical issue. To get the best diagnosis possible doctors will take a full health history, from yourself, family or even friends if needed. He or she may conduct blood, urine workups, neurological and mental status assessments (memory and problem solving), imaging with either a computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging to be able to see brain scans to rule out other issues or for current and future needs. As of right now, you will not get a 100% positive diagnosis. The only way to have a positive diagnosis is after death when an autopsy can be performed, and brain tissue can be analyzed. The following is the disease process broken down into stages. Early stage Alzheimer’s disease can vary from person to person. It may start with impaired reasoning and judgement or struggling with finding specific words during a conversation. Mild Alzheimer’s disease is when a person starts to experience memory loss or other cognitive deficits. They start struggling with handling bank accounts, paying bills, and completing normal activities of living skills Starr, C & McMillan (2016, 2014). You may also start seeing them repeat questions, getting lost going or coming from familiar places, personality and behavior changes. This is usually the point in time, when they can no longer hide what is going on, family become more aware and a diagnosis is given. Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease is the point in the disease when you start seeing the damage to the area of the brain that controls language, reasoning, sensory processing and conscious thought. It is also when confusion and memory loss start to reach an all-time high and they start struggling or not able to recognize family and friends. AD at this stage also affects the ability to learn something new, follow multistep directions and tasks, or have the coping skills for new or stressed situations. You will start to see more anxiety, agitation, aggression, depression and restlessness. Also, during this stage some people experience delusions, hallucinations, paranoia and impulsive behaviors. Severe or end stage Alzheimer’s disease is when the brain tissue shrinks drastically. People completely lose the ability to communicate and require complete care from others. At this point AD causes people to be completely bedridden and organ systems start to shut down National Institute on Aging (2016). “Scientists believe that a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors influence when Alzheimer’s disease begins and how it progresses.” National Institute on Aging (2016) page 3.
Alzheimer is a very complicated disease and has no actually treatment options that have been found to be successful. It has options to help prolong the damage the disease causes and help maintain cognitive function. It is usually a combination of prescriptions medications, therapies and keeping a current healthy lifestyle. Prescription medications are also available as the disease progresses and difficult behaviors become present. All medication should be used with caution and a detail plan should be made with the treating doctor, as some people do not respond well to medication and that alone carries its own risks. National Institute on Aging (2017) As of right now there is no evidence of a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, as we still are not at a point of fully knowing the cause of this horrible disease. The life span expectance after a “diagnosis” is 4 to 20 years, with most relevant research showing 4 to 8 years from diagnosis unless symptoms are caught early and started on medication to slow progression. Neugroschl, & Wang (2011).
This paper was to give information regarding Alzheimer’s Disease, to explain what this disease is, symptoms and how a diagnosis is possible but not fully guaranteed. What treatment options are available, and how to live and provide daily for someone the suffers from this horrible disease.
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