Alzheimer’s disease is an illness involving progressive deterioration of a person’s memory, thinking, and overall mental processes. It is the most common form of dementia and is continually affecting many people around the world. And though researches are being conducted, experts are still hoping to find a cure.
This disease causes brain cells to grow worse and ultimately die, leaving the patient to a state of mental and speech impairment and complete helplessness.
Alzheimer’s Disease and the Human Brain
The Cerebral Cortex. This part of the brain, according to psychologists, is what makes someone a human. Also called the “grey matter”, this is known to be responsible for many "higher-order” brain functions such as memory, emotion, problem solving, reason, perception, auditory sense, speech production, voluntary bodily actions and other very important uses. AD affected brains are known to have gradual shrinkage of cerebral cortex which makes their ability to think, to understand and to speak deteriorate.
The Hippocampus. This part of the brain is associated with the formation of long-term memories. AD affected brains have significant shrinkage in this neural structure. This explains the patient’s memory loss and confusion.
The Ventricles. These are four fluid-filled sections or cavities of the brain that help cushion the cortex. AD enlarges these parts of the brain.
The Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists believe Alzheimer’s disease to be genetic.
Deeper study and examination show that the brain affected by AD indicates the presence of two cellular inclusions that are believed to be the cause of this malady.
- Plaques. These are small abnormal patches in the brain that are caused by build-up of beta-amyloid, a kind of protein that results from tissue degeneration. They are believed to kill the brain cells.
- Tangles. These are caused by the disintegration of a protein called tau. Tau supports and stabilizes the microtubules in the brain.
Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
AD is a neurodegenerative disease and it gets worse over time. The following are some of the signs that a person may have it and needs to see a doctor right away:
- Memory loss and lesser ability to remember new information. It could be characterized by the person repetitively asking the same question, forgetting important events and activities, confusion, or misplacing personal belongings.
- Deterioration of the ability to reason, solve problems, concentrate, and understand complex information.
- Losing track of time or place. Sometimes they forget what date it is or where they are.
- Speech and written communication impairment. They have a hard time formulating thoughts. They sometimes stop at midpoint when they speak as if forgetting what to say next. They misuse words. Writing errors become dominant.
- Sudden changes in behavior. Characterized by unrest, lack of motivation and interest, and indifference. The person tends to become withdrawn from social affairs or even work.
- Visual problems. The person tends to experience trouble reading and perceiving pictures or colors.
The Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease
There is no absolute cure for Alzheimer’s disease at the moment. While researches are in progress to bring forth a remedy, treatments are available only for memory, cognitive and behavioral symptoms. These treatments help patients deal with the changes caused by the disease.