Alzheimer's Essay

Submitted By drkeeton
Words: 2041
Pages: 9

Dara Keeton
Alzheimer's disease, a horrible disease.
English comp 1

Known in the medical literature as Alzheimer disease, this is the most common form of dementia. Is there no cure for this disease, which worsens as it progresses, and eventually leads to death? "It was first described by German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906 and was named after him" (Cummings & Sorvillo, 2012, p.1511). Most often, Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed in people over 65 years of age, although the less-prevalent early-onset Alzheimer's can occur much earlier. In 2006, there were 26.6 million people worldwide with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is predicted to affect 1 in 85 people globally by 2050. There are currently multiple research efforts being conducted to find a cure for Alzheimer's. Although Alzheimer's disease develops differently for every individual, there are many common symptoms. Early symptoms are often mistakenly thought to be 'age-related' concerns, or manifestations of stress. In the early stages, the most common symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events, known as short term memory loss. When Alzheimer's is suspected, the diagnosis is usually confirmed with tests that evaluate behavior and thinking abilities, often followed by a brain scan if available, however, examination of brain tissue is required for a definitive diagnosis. As the disease advances, symptoms can include confusion, irritability, aggression, mood swings, trouble with language, and long-term memory loss. ( Wollen, 2010, p.235) As the person declines they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Since the disease is different for each individual, predicting how it will affect the person is difficult. Alzheimer's develops for an unknown and variable amount of time before becoming fully apparent, and it can progress undiagnosed for years. "On average, the life expectancy following diagnosis is approximately seven years. Fewer than three percent of individuals live more than fourteen years after diagnosis."( Wollen, 2010, p. 240) The cause and progression of Alzheimer's disease are not well understood. Research indicates that the disease is associated with plaques and tangles in the brain. Current treatments only help with the symptoms of the disease. There are no available treatments that stop or reverse the progression of the disease. "As of 2012, more than 1,000 clinical trials have been or are being conducted to test various compounds in Alzheimer's. Mental stimulation, exercise, and a balanced diet have been suggested as ways to delay cognitive symptoms in healthy older individuals, but there is no conclusive evidence supporting an effect. It is classified as a neurodegenerative disorder." (Shan, 2013, p. 35) Because Alzheimer's cannot be cured and is degenerative, the person increasingly relies on others for assistance. The role of the main caregiver is often taken by the spouse or a close relative. Alzheimer's disease is known for placing a great burden on caregivers; the pressures can be wide-ranging, involving social, psychological, physical, and economic elements of the caregiver's life. In developed countries, Alzheimer's is one of the most costly diseases to society. The early stages of Alzheimer's disease are difficult to diagnose. A definitive diagnosis is usually made once cognitive impairment compromises daily living activities, although the person may still be living independently. The symptoms will progress from mild cognitive problems, such as memory loss through increasing stages of cognitive and non-cognitive disturbances, eliminating any possibility of independent living, especially in the late stages of the disease.
Life expectancy of the population with the disease is reduced. The mean