Table of Content    

           Introduction - a brief paragraph that tells you an overview of what Alzheimer's disease is and what kinds of information you can find from this web page. If you have any question or comments on any information or on the web site itself, please E-mail me by clicking the letter icon here.         

           Origin - AD was first discovered accidentally. In this section, I am going to tell when and what were the symptoms of the patient when AD was first discovered.

           Prevalence - According to some statistics, dementia related diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's diseases have the 4th highest dead rate among all the disease. This is section, I am going to show you how badly this disease is widely spread.

           Causes - The finding of causes to AD was a hard effort. After a half of century in research, scientists have discovered some of the causes to this disease.

           Diagnosis - Due to the technology advances in these few centuries as Dr. Budinger illustrated, medical doctors can use high tech equipment to diagnose AD. I will tell you some of the ways.

           Prevention - Since there is still no cures for AD, prevention becomes very essential in fighting this disease. I am going to introduce some of the ways that can reduce the risk of getting this disease.

           Treatment - Even though there is still no hundred percent cure for this disease yet, there are few ways that can reduce the risk and improve the condition of the patients. Caregivers play a very important role in assisting these AD patients. This section I am going to talk about a few different treatments for AD patient.

           Conclusion - In this section, I am going to tell you my own opinion toward this disease in relation of successful aging.

Introduction

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a degenerative disease of the brain from which there is no recovery. Slowly and inexorably attacks nerve cells in all parts of the cortex of the brain, as well as some surrounding structures, thereby impairing a person's abilities to govern emotions, recognize errors and patterns, coordinate movement, and remember. At the last, an afflicted person loses all memory and mental functioning. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a loss of intellectual function (thinking, remembering and reasoning) so severe that it interferes with an individual's daily activities and eventually results in death. Dementia is the fourth leading cause of death in adults, after heart disease, cancer and stroke. Men and women are affected almost equally. In general, patients with AD will experience deterioration of all "high cortical" functions in parallel. This process is painless, although in the early stages the patient may be aware of and profoundly disturbed by the insidious loss of intellectual faculties. In the advanced stages (usually 5-10 years), the patient has lost not only all cognitive abilities but distinctive personality traits and may require constant care. It is a tragic illness that is not only emotionally but also financially devastating for the patient and the family.

This web site will first discuss Alzheimer's disease and its background information including some statistical data and comparative pictures. Then it will talk about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and preventions. Finally the web will get into the main emphasis on the possible treatments such as in reducing risk or finding cures thru researches. Despites the fact that the present technologies can only diminish or detect the afflicted patients of the disease. Hopefully the better nursing and supports from family members and caregivers can contribute to successful aging for these patients.

Origin of Alzheimer's Disease

The disease was first described by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German physician, in 1906. Alzheimer had a patient in her fifties who suffered from what seemed to be a mental illness. But when she died in 1906, an autopsy revealed dense deposits, now called neuritic plaques, outside and around the nerve cells in her brain. Inside the cells were twisted strands of fiber, or neurofibrillary tangles. Today, a definite diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is still only possible when an autopsy reveals these hallmarks of the disease. Since Dr. Alois Alzheimer's was the first person who discovered the disease, AD was named after him.

Prevalence of Alzheimer's Disease

It is estimated that about 4,000,000 people in the United States have Alzheimer's disease. This is a very rough estimate. Alzheimer's disease is not reported on death certificates, so estimates of prevalence (how many people have a disease at any one time) are based on surveys in different communities, and their findings vary. Most surveys have found the percentage of people age 85 and older who have any kind of dementia, including Alzheimer's, to be in the range of 25 to 35 percent. One study in Boston, however, found that the percentage of people with Alzheimer's disease alone was 47.2 percent in people age 85 and over. Over the next decade, it is expected that AD will become the 4th or 5th cause of death.

One problem in getting accurate figures lies in the lack of a single definition of either dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Different surveys use different criteria for determining whether a person falls into one category or another. This is one reason their findings can be different. Another problem is that in all populations studied, a large proportion of people are unable or unwilling to participate in surveys of dementia.

Although there is still no agreement on the exact percentage of people with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia, all studies do project one picture clearly--the exponential rise of this disease with age. After age 65, the percentage of affected people approximately doubles with every decade of life, regardless of how a survey defines dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

It is also clear that as America's older population grows, the number of people with Alzheimer's will rise. If current population trends continue and no cure is found, the actual number of people with the disease could double every 20 years.

How much it costs?

Causes of Alzheimer's Disease

The cause or causes of Alzheimer's disease are unknown. However, scientific research has begun to point in several directions. Neurotransmitter deficits have been implicated, with a deficiency of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine being a prominent and consistently identified deficit. Acetylcholine is one of several chemicals that carry nerve impulses from one neuron to another in the brain's communication system. It is not yet known, however, whether destruction of the cells that make acetylcholine is a cause or a consequence of Alzheimer's disease. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that a defect in a single gene on Chromosome 21 has been linked to a form of the disease called Familial or Early Onset Alzheimer's disease. For most patients, however, genetic involvement is less clear. Scientists are also exploring the importance of theories such as a slow virus, environmental toxins, amyloid and other physical conditions that can trigger the disease.

Advances in Diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease

There is no single clinical test to identify AD. A comprehensive evaluation to establish diagnosis will include a complete health history, physical examination, neurological and mental status assessments and other tests including analysis of blood and urine, electrocardiogram (EKG) and chest x-rays. Documenting symptoms and behavior over time, in a diary fashion, will help physicians understand the person's illness. The physician may order additional tests as needed including: computerized tomography (CT Scan), electroencephalography (EEG), positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), formal psychiatric assessment, and/or neuropsychological testing. While this evaluation may provide a diagnosis of possible or probable AD, confirmation of AD requires examination of brain tissue, which is usually done by an autopsy.

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Possible Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease

Prevention is not possible at this time because the cause of the disease is unknown. Since no controllable risk factors for Alzheimer's disease are known, people are not yet able to reduce their chances of getting the disease. However, advances in science are bringing us closer to answers that can lead to treatments and effective strategies for prevention. Meanwhile, focus on improved care and support for the patient and caregiver are helping to ease the burden of Alzheimer's disease. Although it is difficult for the person and their caregivers to cope with the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, thoughtful care planning and modifications to the living environment can often relieve distress.

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Advances in Treating Alzheimer's Disease

Although no cure for AD is presently available, good planning and medical and social management (caregivers) can ease the burdens on the patient and family. Health care directives and decisions can be made while the patient has the mental capacity to do so. Physical exercise and social activity are important, as is proper nutrition. A calm and well-structured environment may help the afflicted person to continue functioning. Intervention strategies and if necessary, appropriate medication can lessen symptoms such as agitation and anxiety, and improve sleep and participation in activities.

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Conclusion

In light of these issues, Alzheimer's Disease, which primarily affects older people, represents a major health concern and expense for the United States. Scientists are applying the newest knowledge and research techniques in molecular genetics, pathology, immunology, toxicology, neurology, psychiatry, pharmacology, biochemistry and epidemiology to find the causes, treatments and cures for AD. Until researchers find a way to cure or prevent AD, the number of people living to very old age (85+) and at risk for AD will continue to increase dramatically. Providing and financing the care of a growing older population present special challenges for our health care system. Hopefully these will contribute to successful aging for those afflicted with this disease.

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Medical Glossary Related to Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer’s Page
Glossary
Alzheimer's Organization
Family Care on Alzheimer's Disease
Ask NOAH About: Aging
Research on Alzheimer's disease
Pictures on Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's Newsgroups
More Web Sites on Alzheimer's disease

Bibliography

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Last updated on 12/9/96