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Alzheimer's Disease

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Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is one of the most common of the dementing illnesses. A

progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the brain, causing impaired

memory, thinking and behavior. A person with Alzhiemers Disease may experience

personality and behavior changes, impaired judgment, confusion and difficulty

finishing thoughts, following directions or even finding the right word to say

in a conversation. Once advanced the sufferer may require a caretaker as daily

chores become very difficult to accomplish. Evidence points toward amyloid as

one of the main causes for the occurring cytotoxic processes. Researchers have

found that degeneration appears to be caused by interference with intracellular

calcium homeostasis via activation of calcium channels, intracellular calcium

stores, and further production of free radicals by calcium-sensitive enzymes.

The glutamatergic system seems to be involved in mediating the toxic processes.

In the brain, the nerve cells in the part that controls memory and thinking are

damaged, this interrupts the passage of messages between communicating cells.

The cells undergo distinctive changes, these are called neuritic plaques (groups

of degenerating nerve cell ends) and neurofibrillary tangles (groups of twisted

filaments which accumulate in previously healthy nerve cells). The cortex (used

for thinking) of the brain shrinks, the spaces in the center of the brain become

enlarged causing reduction of the surface area in the brain. Symptoms of AD

usually occur in older adults and are the ones most at risk, although people in

their 40s and 5Os may also be affected. The symptoms include a loss of

intellectual capacity, loss of language skills which may include having trouble

finding words, poor or decreased judgment, problems with abstract thinking,

disorientation in place and time, changes in mood or behavior and changes in

personality. AD does not discriminate, it affects any race, socio background or

sex equally. The classic symptom of forgetfulness is part of the normal aging

process and usually begins in early middle age, however, normal forgetfulness

differs from Alzheimer's Disease in many important ways. The cause of

Alzheimer's Disease is not exactly known. Suspected causes undergoing research

are neurological damage, chemical deficiencies, viruses, environmental toxins

and malfunctions in the body's disease defense systems and genetics. There is

also evidence of a slightly increased risk of heridity of AD amongst children,

brothers and sisters of patients with this disease. It is also important to note

that AD can only be diagnosed 100% after death through an autopsy of the

affected subjects brain tissue. About a third of autopsies turn up a different

diagnosis and thus family members are encouraged to ask for an autopsy as a

contribution to the study of the disease and about the genetics of AD. There is

no single clinical test for AD. It is usually diagnosed by ruling out all other

curable or incurable causes of memory loss. A positive diagnosis of this disease

can only be made by microscopically studying a small piece of brain tissue after

death. The cerebral cortex of an Alzheimer sufferers brain will have

characteristic abnormalities such as cells marred by plaques and tangles. A

working diagnosis can be made though through various testing procedures that

include a complete physical as well as neurological and psychological

examinations. At this time there is no definite cure or treatment for AD,

although there are many suppliers of products which claim to help sufferers, but

the products are more like over-priced placebos with no documented evidence of

alleviation of the illness amongst sufferers, but glutamate receptor-selective

drugs, some antioxidants,



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