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Alzheimer’s disease is an atrophic brain condition that is characterized by progressive collapse of the higher mental functions (language, logical thinking) and mental activity in general resulting in total dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by gradual, barely noticeable beginning and relatively slow but steadily progressive course with the gradual development of dementia, from the initial decrease in mental activity up to its total collapse. Despite the fact that this disorder often remains unidentified, Alzheimer’s disease is incurable and the fourth in the list of deadly diseases (Lu and Bludau 14). Therefore, seriousness and incurability of the disease puts it among the most vital issues in a global scale.
Alzheimer’s disease usually occurs in older people and is characterized by the destruction of brain cells. Pathoanatomical verification of Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis is based on the presence of the following neuromorphological changes:
- Diffuse loss of neurons in the cortex and subcortical nuclei;
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- Alzheimer neurofibrillary degeneration;
- Appearance of senile plaques and vacuolar granule cell degeneration (Waldemar and Burns 33).
Thus, brain plays a crucial role in the evolution of this disorder being “the main platfrm” for the disease development.
There are four stages of the disease progression. The first stage is pre-dementia. The most noticeable symptom in this case becomes a memory disorder that manifests itself in the human attempts to recall previously learned facts. There are also problems in a number of executive functions, which include planning, concentration, and abstract thinking (McKhann et al. 264). Problems with semantic memory, i.e. memory associated with the meaning of words and relationship between concepts, are not excluded.
The second stage is early dementia. This stage is characterized by impoverishment of vocabulary together with the reduction of verbal fluency; this, in turn, leads to the extinction of verbal ability (and written ability as well) to express one’s own thoughts (McKhann et al. 264). With the gradual progression of the disease, patients can still perform a lot of tasks making them independently, but under a close supervision.
The third stage is moderate dementia. This stage, again, is accompanied by memory problems, which, this time, are considerably amplified. As a result, the patient may even lose the ability to recognize people close to him. Such manifestations of the disease as the evening exacerbation and vagrancy become continuous. The patient becomes more irritable and acquires the emotional instability, which is manifested in spontanneous aggression and crying (McKhann, et al. 266). Such symptoms frequently lead to the stress of a patient’s relatives.
The fourth and the last stage is advanced dementia. This is the final stage of the disease at which the patient is simply unable to do something without outside help. All language skills may be reduced up to the use of single phrases and sometimes just single words (McKhann, et al. 268). Thus, there is virtually complete loss of speech. This stage can also be accompanied by aggression manifestations; however, apathy in the complex with the depletion often becomes the prevailing condition of patient.
To date, treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is impossible because of its incurability. However, there are a number of drugs the use of which makes it possible to slow its progressive course as well as weaken or remove actual symptoms. Such drugs include medications for the improvement of cognitive abilities and memory as well as the elimination of anxiety and depression.
Millions of people in the whole world are living with dementia, which makes it a global problem that needs to be addressed. Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease dramatically changes the life of both the person and his/her family and friends, but the information and support are available to all. No one has to deal with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia alone.