What Is Alzheimer

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What Is Alzheimer’s Disease Essay, Research Paper What is Alzheimer s Disease Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet Introduction Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in older people. A dementia is a medical condition that disrupts the way the brain works. AD affects the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. Every day, scientists learn more about AD, but right now the cause of the disease still is unknown, and there is no cure. An estimated 4 million people in the United States suffer from AD. The disease usually begins after age 65, and risk of AD goes up with age. While younger people also may have AD, it is much less common. About 3 percent of men and women ages 65 to 74 have AD, and nearly half of those age 85 and older may

have the disease. It is important to note, however, that AD is not a normal part of aging. Scientists also have found other changes in the brains of people with AD. There is a loss of nerve cells in areas of the brain that are vital to memory and other mental abilities. There also are lower levels of chemicals in the brain that carry complex messages back and forth between billions of nerve cells. AD may disrupt normal thinking and memory by blocking these messages between nerve cells. AD begins slowly. At first, the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness. Such difficulties may be a bother, but usually they are not serious enough to cause alarm. However, as the disease goes on, symptoms are more easily noticed and become serious enough to cause people with AD or their family

members to seek medical help. For example, people with AD may forget how to do simple tasks, like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. They can no longer think clearly; and they begin to have problems speaking, understanding, reading, or writing. Later on, people with AD may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, patients may need total care. Doctors at specialized centers can diagnose probable AD correctly 80 to 90 percent of the time. They can find out whether there are plaques and tangles in the brain only by looking at a piece of brain tissue under a microscope. It can be painful and risky to remove brain tissue while a person is alive. Doctors cannot look at the tissue until they do an autopsy, which is an examination of the body done

after a person dies. Doctors may say that a person has “probable” AD. They will make this diagnosis by finding out more about the person’s symptoms. The following is some of the information the doctor may need to make a diagnosis: * A complete medical history The doctor may ask about the person’s general health and past medical problems. He or she will want to know about any problems the person has carrying out daily activities. The doctor may want to speak with the person’s family or friends to get more information. * Basic medical tests Tests of blood and urine may be done to help the doctor eliminate other possible diseases. In some cases, testing a small amount of spinal fluid also may help. In addition, scientists are busy trying to develop a test to diagnose AD

that will be easy and accurate. * Neuropsychological tests These are tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language. They will help the doctor pinpoint specific problems the person has. * Brain scans The doctor may want to do a special test, called a brain scan, to take a picture of the brain. There are several types of brain scans, including a computerized tomography (CT) scan, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, or a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. By looking at a picture of the brain, the doctor will be able to tell if anything does not look normal. Information from the medical history and any test results help the doctor rule out other possible causes of the person’s symptoms. For example, thyroid gland problems, drug reactions,