What is the Alzheimer’s disease and its symptoms?
The Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia on elderly people. A degenerative disorder of the brain which kills brain chromosomes, affecting the ability to think, behave, remember, and even talk in most severe cases. Alzheimer’s disease has no cure, but there are many treatments and medicines today that can help delay its symptoms if diagnosed in the beginning.
The name Alzheimer’s disease was given by Alois Alzheimer, whom was the doctor that first diagnosed this disease. Alois Alzheimer had recently graduated from a medicine school and got his first job as physician of a mentally ill woman. Alois had to follow this poor woman on all of her travels; this experience gave him the fling for psychiatry and brain disorders. “By the time he met Auguste D., Alzheimer was 37 and had already established himself as a leading neurologist. He had published studies on epilepsy, brain tumors, syphilis, hardening of the arteries of the brain and other topics…” (Molloy and Caldwell 5). Auguste D. was the first case of early Alzheimer’s, she was 50 years old at that time; usually all patients develop the disease after the age of 65. She stayed her last four years of life agonizing in a mentally ill facility where Alois Alzheimer was her primary doctor. Auguste D. died at the age of 55 without knowing what type of disease she had. After her death, Alois examined her dead brain and saw a new type of dementia. “The first thing Alzheimer noted was that many of the expected brain cells were not visible – they were simply not there. He could see the empty sites were they had once ben, but the neurons had disappeared” (Molloy and Caldwell 8).
There are 60 different types of dementia. Dementia is the loss of brain function; it changes our behavior, way of thinking, personality, memory, and language. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common one followed by dementia with Lewis Bodies, and stroke. Another type of dementia that was also discovered in the same mental facility that Dr. Alzheimer worked was the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Not very common between all types of dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was discovered by one of Dr. Alzheimer’s young assistant, Dr. Gerhard Creutzfeldt.
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Fig. 1. Types of Dementia: Alzheimer’s disease is the primary cause of dementia in at least 55% of cases and the secondary cause in another 20% or more. Data from UCI Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders; What is Alzheimer’s? California: university of California, 2013; Web; 7 June. 2014
Today, doctors still don’t know the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. The most common theory is that it is a genetic disease, which runs through family genetics. A recently study in Switzerland showed that in a case of identical twins, if one of them develop Alzheimer’s, the other one have 67% more chances to also develop the disease. While on non-identical twins the chances drops to 22%. There are many different causes that doctors are still studying today that they believe is the cause or helps to develop Alzheimer’s disease. One of them is associated with head injuries, people that suffered some kind of trauma in their early life has a greater percentage chance in developing the disease. As for example boxers, doctors believe that this sport is linked to Alzheimer’s disease because of all the head injuries that pugilist suffers.
There are three stages on Alzheimer’s disease: the mild stage, the moderate stage, and the severe stage.
On the mild stage the patient starts to forget small things like; remembering where they left their wallet, keys, cell phones. All newly information that is obtained during the day, they tend to forget. Since Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease – which tend to become worse as the days goes by – the patient starts from forgetting small things to barely remember anything. Still on the mild stage but now getting closer to the moderate stage, patients start to forget big things that currently happened to them. Like having a conversation with someone and not being able to remember what the dialogue was about or even remembering that they had that conversation. Also by trying to perform more challenging tasks like paying bills, or solving math problems become very difficult.
The symptoms on the moderate stage are more aggressive than the mild stage. Now, patients with Alzheimer’s disease start to forget about everything. They tend to forget their own address, phone number, but still can remember things about themselves and close family members. Patients also start having problems recognizing what day it is, and start to need help choosing clothes for certain occasions or even for different types of weather season.
The severe stage is the worst one. People with Alzheimer’s disease starts to suffer much more now, they can barely remember anything, even about themselves. They tend to forget faces and names of family members, also forget their own personal history. They also need help going to the bathroom and dressing, because they might confuse day clothes with sleeping clothes. They will probably have small flashes of memory therefore getting confuse where they are. As days goes by the dementia starts to become even worse, specially with people that have passed the 80’s, they are not able to carry a conversation anymore, they can probably speak just a few words. They also start to sleep during the day and become a very vivid during the night therefore not letting anyone else sleep in the house. They don’t laugh as much as before, become very aggressive, those who usually didn’t say any bad words start to say it very often. The symptoms vary from each patient, but for sure that the older they are, the more help they will need.
I first experienced someone with Alzheimer’s disease about two years ago. My grandmother from my mother’s side - Angelina Premoli - was diagnosed with the disease 4 years ago. Before that, we used to talk a lot on the phone, and I started to notice some changes on her memory and the way she talked about everything. My family and I decided to take her to a doctor where they diagnosed her as a bipolar person – someone who changes their mood frequently – but no one accepted that, because bipolar people don’t forget about things, so we decided to take her to another doctor to have a second opinion. We finally found out that what she had is Alzheimer’s disease. We started the treatment right away to help delay the severe symptoms, but it didn’t help much. She started to get worse every day, everything went very fast I assume. The doctors said that the mild stage last from 2 to 10 years, the second 1 to 3 years, and the third 8 to 12 years. My grandmother moved from the mild to the severe stage in less than four years. As my aunt Gloria Almeida who is my grandmother caregiver said on a interview that I did over the phone: “We first noticed that she was just forgetting names of people, but all the suddenly she couldn’t recognize her own house.”
When my aunt took her to live with her in another city, they had to keep all the doors locked the whole time, my grandmother used to spend the whole afternoon wondering and screaming for help at the main gate. So my aunt decided to take her back to her house to see if something would change, but when she got there she had a surprise, my grandmother didn’t recognize her own house. She thought that her house was the one she lived when she was 10 years old. Two years passed after she was first diagnosed, and I finally was able to see my grandmother again, she was the one who raised me as a kid, so she had a really deep love for my brother and I. When I got there, I had the most shocking experience of my life. My loved grandmother didn’t recognize me, she thought I was a stranger. But during a conversation as we tried to make her remember things, she had some flashes back and remembered. But it only lasted for a few minutes, three minutes later she didn’t know who I was and even what was happening around her.
Today, there are still no signs for the cure of Alzheimer’s disease, but the world is working together as one trying to find a cure or the right treatment for it. The only thing that doctors were able to develop was medicines and treatments in delaying the symptoms of early signs. On my grandmother’s case these drugs and treatment didn’t work so well, her symptoms became severe very fast. On the same interview that I did over the phone with my aunt Gloria Almeida, she said that: “ we followed everything that the doctors said, even with the daily bases routine, which the doctor said that if we keep a daily routine for her, she would have less trouble in doing things or remembering it, but none of those really worked”. Today, my grandmother is on the last stage of the disease, she can barely talk, she needs help going to the bathroom and dressing, she does not recognize anyone around her, not even her daughter sometimes.
Since there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, what this treatment does is basically try to improve the patient life, not only their life but theirs families too. In my opinion the family end up suffering much more than the patient itself, because the patient doesn’t really know what is going on around them, they kind become children again, but for the family, there is nothing they can do about it unless watch their agony. There are many rumors out there that say it can help prevent the Alzheimer’s disease - like drinking wine almost everyday, or smoking cigarettes – but none of them are somehow accurate.
- Quote paper
- Demetrius Goncalves (Author), 2014, What is the Alzheimer's disease and its symptoms?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/310158