Alzheimer's Explained

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain condition that affects mostly the elderly. If you or a loved one is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, keep reading to find out more about it.

The disease is named after a German doctor named Alois Alzheimer who discovered the condition in the early 1900s. The disease and our knowledge of it have come a long way in 100 years. Now, there are drugs being marketed that can help to slow the progression of the disease in some sufferers.

The brain condition is degenerative, meaning it will get worse as the symptoms progress. Currently there is no treatment that is able to reverse the condition. What we call “senile dementia” is actually the beginnings of Alzheimer’s.

Those with the condition experience a breakdown in the way that the brain functions. Synapses become broken and that causes problems with memory and knowledge of how to do things like walking, talking or driving a car for example. Synapses are the neural pathways created when we learn to do something or when the brain stores a memory.

Scientists have discovered that the accumulation of a certain protein in the brain is what is leading to the death of nerve cells. And, once dead, nerve cells do not regenerate. The brain also goes through other changes that affect its size. Shrinkage or enlargement affects the connections, breaking them.

The disease usually manifests itself in persons over the age of 65. This is the same age at which most dementia starts to be seen. Those with Alzheimer’s can be affected for up to twelve years before the disease takes their life.

During this time, they experience a variety of symptoms. Symptoms are usually on the mild side at first which is why it can be mistaken for normal dementia. Usually, forgetfulness revolves around recent memories. Family members of sufferers may notice that is more difficult for them to do simple things like grocery shopping, paying bills or remembering to take medications.

As the disease progresses, the disorientation and difficulty remembering become worse. Now, they may not remember people, act suspicious of family members and others and even forget where they are. Things that seem so simple like walking across the room or getting dressed in the morning are now hard to manage due to the breakdown in the brain. As the brain breaks down, more and more functions are lost. Eventually, the involuntary functions of the body will become impaired.

Scientists are working to find ways to help those affected with Alzheimer’s. For now, the current drugs can help slow the progression but not arrest the disease entirely.