Alzheimer’s Disease

CT scan alzhiemers disease

Alzheimer’s Definition

Alzheimer’s Disease named after Aloysius Alzheimer in 1906, a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist. It is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental actions. In this disease the connections between the brain cells and the brain cells itself degenerates and die thus creating a decline in memory and mental actions. It is the most common form of dementia.[1]

Dr. Aloysius Alzheimer

Dr. Aloysius Alzheimer

Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease

Causes of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown, however there were given hypothesis and risk factors which contribute to the development of the disease.

The three most common hypotheses include

  • Cholinergic Hypothesis states that AD is caused by reduced synthesis of neurotransmitter acetylcholine. [11]
  • Amyloid hypothesis indicates that beta-amyloid (βA) deposits are the fundamental cause of the disease. [11]
  • Tau hypothesis states that Tau proteins abnormalities are the cause of the disease development. Tau proteins are proteins that stabilize microtubules which are abundant in the central nervous system.[11]

Some of the risk factor includes

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Whiplash and head injuries
  • Toxins e.g. aluminum
  • Gender
  • Mild cognitive development
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Heart disease risk factors
  • Academic level
  • Processed foods and fertilizers
  • Stress[2] [4]

 Ten WARNING signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty with familiar tasks
  • Misplacing things
  • Confusion with time and place
  • Loss of initiative and motivation
  • Problems with language
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of motor skill and touch
  • Delusions and paranoia [4] [5]

Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Stage I- No impairment (normal function)

  • Maybe considered as an effect of aging

Stage II- Very mild cognitive decline

  1. Experiencing memory lapses
  2. Having trouble memorizing
  3. Misplaces or loses things

Stage III- Mild cognitive decline

  1. Difficulty remembering names
  2. Difficulty performing simple tasks

 Stage IV- Moderate cognitive decline

  1. Trouble planning or problem solving
  2. Money trouble
  3. Withdrawal

Stage V- Moderately severe cognitive decline

  1. Agitations and mood swings
  2. Confusion with time and place
  3. Difficulty dressing

 Stage VI- Severe cognitive decline

  1. Difficulty communicating
  2. Wandering
  3. Trouble with spatial and visual relationship
  4. Don’t recognize family and friends

Stage VII- Very severe cognitive decline

  1. Loss of motor skills and touch
  2. Delusions and paranoia
  3. Verbal and physical aggressions[2] [3] [5]

Genes in Alzheimer’s Disease

Although Alzheimer’s Disease is not hereditary but some genes may act as risk factors. Most causes of early onset of Alzheimer’s disease are caused by gene mutations that can be passed from parent to child. It is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, meaning one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient enough to cause the disorder. This form of the disease is known as the early onset Familial Alzheimer’s Disease (FAD) [4].

According to research this form of disorder can result from mutations in one of the three genes, APP, PSEN1 or PSEN2. Alterations of these three genes can lead to the production of large amount of amyloid beta peptide and are produce in the brain wherein they form amyloid plaques thus their build-ups can result to the death of nerve cells and the progressive signs and symptoms of the disorder.

Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease

Doctors usually diagnose most cases of Alzheimer’s though they are not 100% sure until one dies from the disease. Autopsy of the brain is required to confirm the diagnosis. However doctors will usually carry out some tests to detect whether one has Alzheimer’s disease.[2] [9]

Tests for alzheimers disease

Physical and neurologic exam

  • reflexes
  • muscle tone and strength
  • ability to get up from the chair
  • walk across the room
  • sense of sight and hearing
  • coordination and balance [2]

Blood/ laboratory tests

Neuropsychological examination

Brain imaging

Computerized Tomography (CT scan) alzhiemers disease

CT scan alzhiemers disease

picture:Computerized Tomography (CT scan)


 mri alzhiemers disease


mri image alzhiemers disease

picture:Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)


 PET scan alzhiemers disease

PET scan image alzhiemers disease

 picture:Positron Emission Tomography (PET scan)


Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease

The cure of Alzheimer’s disease is still unknown. However certain drugs has proved some significant effects on slowing the progress of the disease and also manages the symptoms. Doctors may prescribe these following medications to help slow down the disease. [2]

Cholinesterase inhibitors– which improve the levels of neurotransmitters. [2]

  • Donecept (Aricept)
  • Galantamine (Razadyne)
  • Rivastigmine (Exelon)
  • Memantine- this drug protects brain cells from damage. Prescribed to improve memory, language, reason, attention and ability to carry out simple tasks. [2]

Side Effects

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation

Due to Alzheimer’s symptoms such as sleep problems, hallucinations and agitations doctors also prescribe the following classification of drugs. [12]

  • Antidepressants
  • Anxiolytics
  • Antipsychotics

Alzheimer’s Disease Research

Researches on Alzheimer ’s disease focus mainly on the treatment of the underlying causes of the disease.

  • In 2008, researchers used methylthioninium chloride and dimebon to modify the course of the disease from two separate trials that showed positive results.
  • On December 3, 2012 according to NASA manned spaceflights can harm the brain of astronauts thus accelerating the onset of Alzheimer’s.
  • Other research states that Herpes Simplex virus has been found to locate together with amyloid plaques and indicated that AD can be treated and prevented by antiviral agents.
  • Effects of meditation, retrieving memory and cognitive functions are encouraged but with limitations unless future studies approves with more detailed analysis that shows it to be effective.
  • Approval of florbetapir which can help detect Alzheimer’s brain plaques but still need to be approved by the FDA and require additional studies before it can be made available commercially.
  • As of 2012, more than pharmaceutical treatments are still under studies to prove their effectiveness and somehow finding the best alternatives in reducing the symptoms and progression of the disease.[7] [8]

Statistics, Facts and Figures

Alzheimer’s Disease International estimates that 24 million people worldwide are affected by AD. And it affects up to 13% of people 65 years old and over and increased to 50% at 85 years and older.


statistics of alzhiemers disease

picture:statistics of alzheimers disease

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of mortality/ death and the 5th leading cause of death for those 65 years older and above and the only cause of death among Americans without a cure, a way to prevent it or to slow the disease progress. Between 2000- 2010 deaths due to heart disease, stroke and cancer decline while deaths related to AD increased by 39%. [6]



Age adjusted mortality rate:alzheimers disease

picture:age related deaths alzhiemers disease

 The mortality rate from Alzheimer’s increases significantly with age. Population aged 85 years and over is more likely to die from AD than the age of 65-74 years. That’s why age is considered a risk factor in acquiring Alzheimer’s disease [6].






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