Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease

There are many infections that affect the human body. Most of these infections also attack specific parts of the human body. For example, there are those that attack the urinary system, the heart, the abdominal cavity among other specific regions of the body.  However, in this case study, I will address the Alzheimer’s disease which affects the human brain (Lu et al, 2011)

In medical literature, this disease is also known as Alzheimer disease, which is the most common form of dementia (Draper, 2013). Dementia can be defined as a serious disorder that leads to loss of any cognitive ability. This disorder is mostly associated with persons who appear to have never been previously unimpaired mentally. This is beyond the cognitive memory loss that people associate with old age. In fact, the terminology ‘dementia’ comes from a Latin word ‘mens’ which means mind, and when ‘de’ is added it means madness. Therefore, the Alzheimer’s disease seems to be the, most common as well as relatively the one of the most serious unfortunate disorders that sends the human brain in a state of in cognitive state (Lerner, 2009). This is disease has a lot of devastating effects to the human brain, especially bearing in mind that there is no known cure for the disease as of yet. This means that the disease progresses as it continues to worsen and then eventually leads to a mental shutdown on an infected individual, causing death. The disease is named Alzheimer after Alois Alzheimer, a German neuropathologist and a psychiatrist who was the first to describe in 1906.

According to Alzheimer, the disease can be detected at an early age but in most people the disease remains undiscovered until they are over or at the age of 65 years (Lau et al, 2008). This disease is relatively common and it has been estimated that 1 in every 85 people in the world will be affected by it in the year 2050. To matters worse, this disease was estimated to have affected more than 26.6 million people in the world by the year 2006 (In Practico & In Mecocci, 2013). These statistics show just how serious the disease is and why it should not be taken lightly by scientists, medical practitioners as well as other individual who are in a position to help control its spread. This is bearing in mind that no known cure has been known as of yet. As if that was not enough, there is no known primary cause for the disease as of yet, other than a small percentage of 1 to 5 that shows some genetic association (Draper, 2013). This means that in all the cases that have been investigated concerning this disease, only 1% to 5% of them that have shown a characteristic of difference in genetics. However, scientists have not failed to come up with competing hypotheses in the matter seeking to explain what exactly causes this disease. In genetics, the disease is believed to be passed on to another host through autosomal dominant inheritance form, which before the age 65 is usually on the onset.

When this happens, scientists call this disease as the” early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease”. Most of these dominant familial Alzheimer’s disease are believed to take place as a result of mutations in one of three genes. These are three of encoding genes that are found in the human body and they are; the senile plaques, amyloid and the precursor protein (APP). However, when it comes to the cases of the Alzheimer disease, they tend not to portray any characteristics of the autosomal-dominant inheritance. Therefore, they are termed as sporadic Alzheimer’s disease, in which the genetic differences as well as other environmental factors can act as risk factors (Lau et al, 2008).

Other than the genetic causes associated with this diseases, scientist have significantly contentious hypothesis on what really causes this disease. For instance, there is a hypothesis referred to as the cholinergic hypothesis. In this hypothesis, it suggests that Alzheimer’s disease occurs when the neurotransmitter acetylcholine synthesis is significantly low in the human body (Lu et al 2011). In fact, it seems that this is the most common believe even in our hospitals, since these are the drug therapies that are being adopted for individuals who show signs of this disease. There is also the Amyloid hypothesis which seems to suggest that deposits of extracellular beta-amyloid are a significant cause of the disease. There is also the Tau hypothesis which seems to suggest that abnormalities emanating from synthesizing the Tau protein are responsible for the disease. There have been other hypotheses including a perception that there are viruses that play major roles in causing the disease. Herpes Simplex type 1 is an example of such a virus which has been associated with play a causative role to the disease (Lerner, 2009).

This disease has significantly interesting characteristics. For instance, this disease has no known incubation period (Draper, 2013). However, 70% of cases where this disease have been positively diagnosed have been at around the age of 65 years or thereafter. Therefore, we can say that this disease targets people as they grow older, making increased age the most common and prevalent risk factor in getting the disease. In fact, research shows that as individual grows in age, the higher the risks of contacting the disease. It has also been proven that 10% of individuals at the age of 65 have the disease. Then, when it comes to adults of above the age of 85 years, the percentage is as high as 50%. In the United States alone, it is predicted that by the year 2050 we may be having 13.8 million individuals with this disease if the cure for the same is not developed soon (Draper, 2013). The populations with disease like diabetes, elevated blood cholesterol, coronary artery disease and high blood pressure are also at risk of contracting the disease. Research also shows that individuals who have attained education for a period of less than eight years are also at great risk of contracting the disease. There is also the genetic risk that makes some individuals be vulnerable to contacting the disease than in other individuals. In fact, when it comes to prevalence of the disease, it was estimated that as of 2013, more that 5.1 million Americans had the Alzheimer disease. In the year 2011, it had been estimated that more than 34 million people worldwide had the Alzheimer’s disease (Lerner, 2009).

When it comes to the signs and symptoms of this disease, it is significantly hard to establish than other diseases like Malaria where an individual just comes down with a fever. This disease infects the individual from the inside gradually without causing any damage that may cause alarm. As the disease progresses, that is when the individual starts losing some memory causing forgetfulness that many people easily dismiss as the aging process (Lau et al, 2008). This continues to happen until people start questioning whether it is old age or something else at play, especially when an individual’s level of performance starts being affected by the disease. These signs usually show in the first stage of the disease. However, as the disease continues to manifest itself in an individual, he/she starts losing track of recent events in matter of time or even the venue where they were held. It is during this time that the symptoms starts showing and individuals start forgetting little, but important details around them (In Pratico & In Mecocci, 2013). For instance, they may forget to turn off the iron box, while others even totally forget what day they are supposed to take their medicine even when they try so hard to remember. Other symptoms at this stage also include; apathy, withdraw from ones social interactions and other mild personality changes.

As the disease continues to manifest itself in an individual, problems develop in intellectual as well as abstract thinking starts to develop. Sometimes this is seen in individuals who cannot even understand what they read from their bills leave alone counting them. At this stage, an individual comes into terms that indeed the disease takes control of one’s memories. Therefore, there are symptoms that are associated with this realization which include; agitation, quarrelsomeness, agitation, restlessness and even the ability to dress properly starts diminishing in an individual unwillingly (Draper, 2013). Later on, after this stage an individual becomes disoriented or totally confused even to a point where they may not tell the year or the month. They may not even remember the place they went the day before or even be in a position to describe the events that took place. At this stage even engaging in a constructive conversation with such an individual becomes difficult. Other symptoms include having a lose bladder, erratic mood and even poor bowel control ( In Practico & In Mecocci, 2013). Later on, an individual becomes totally incapacitated to take care of him/herself and death follows soon after. However, it is important to note that it is not this disease that kills an individual. Otherwise, it is diseases like pneumonia, heart diseases and general poor health from the disease that kills an individual.

The warning signs that an individual suffering from this disease include; memory loss, poor judgment, time or place disorientation, difficulty in perform tasks that are familiar to an individual, misplacing things, change in personality, mood or behavior changes, loss of initiative, difficulties with abstract thinking and even problems with language (Lau et al, 2008). Therefore, since most of these warning signs people pass them as “normal” most of the times, individual showing several of them should be properly evaluated by a physician for the same.  When it comes to diagnosing this disease, there is no known way of telling whether an individual has this disease or not (Draper, 2013). However, an individual can be medically evaluated by a physician through a process that may be able to tell whether he/she suffers from the same. This evaluation requires sound and undisputed medical skills. To carry out a successful evaluation, a physician may carry out a lot of factors into consideration including; testing mental status, through a series of tests that may even call for brain imaging and blood testing, neurological exams may also be carried out as well as careful evaluation on an individual’s medical history. However, individuals are advised by medical practitioners to know that it does not mean that having memory problems is out rightly associated with the Alzheimer’ disease.

In terms of treatment, there is no known medicine for this disease (Lu et al, 2011). However, FDA has approved the use of partial glutamate antagonists and cholinesterase inhibitors. These drugs do not cure the disease or even slow its rate of progression. However, scientists say that they relieve some symptoms associated with the disease. They also believe some of these drugs also help in the breakdown of acetylcholine neurotransmitters in the brain that help in creation of new memories once the old ones are gone (Lerner, 2009). Scientists have also suggested that individuals should participate in social activities that help in strengthening the brain like; playing chess, playing instruments, singing and dancing among others.

When it comes to prognosis of the disease, it is difficult to tell an individual with the disease at early stages. However, once discovered, then it helps patients and their loved ones to take care of each other. The disease is believed to spread in a period of between 2 to 25 years, in most patients it shows to take 15 years (Draper, 2013). It is also important to note that it is not the disease that kills individuals. Otherwise, it is other infections like pneumonia that take advantage of difficulties in swallowing as well as walking that come with the Alzheimer’s disease that kill (Lau et al, 2008). It is necessary to note individuals suffering from this disease do not necessarily have to remain in a health institution; they can remain at home as long as proper care and love is shown to them by their families.


Draper, B. (2013). Understanding alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

In Praticò, D., & In Mecocci, P. (2013). Studies on Alzheimer’s disease.

Lau, L.-F., Brodney, M. A., & Berg, S. (2008). Alzheimer’s disease. Berlin: Springer.

Lerner, A. W., & Lerner, A. C. (2009). Alzheimer’s disease. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.

Lu, L. C., & Bludau, J. (2011). Alzheimer’s disease. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood.