Alzheimers disease was discovered by a German neurologist named Alois Alzheimer. After describing changes in the brain tissue of a patient that died from confusion, memory loss and apathy he gave his name to the condition. AD is a progressive disease that can be slow or rapid. It often begins with mild forgetfulness, the patient may have difficulty remembering recent events, activities, names and people. Simple maths problems become difficult however these symptoms are not seriously noticeable at the beginning phase.
As the disease progresses more noticeable things become apparent to AD sufferers or close friends or family. Simple tasks such as combing hair or teeth brushing become forgotten about, a gradual degradation in speech and understanding how to read and write. Thinking becomes unclear and their personality begins to change as sufferers can become anxious and aggressive. Full time care is eventually required.
Alzheimer’s disease is neither a rare or common disease. It has been estimated that 700,000 suffer from Alzheimer’s in the UK and 3 to 4 million in the USA. There is no definite way of diagnosing AD until after death when an autopsy can be carried out on the brain to search for plaques or tangles within the brain tissue that will be apparent in Alzheimer’s sufferers. Doctors can diagnose AD correctly now 90% of the time. The tools they use are: To ask questions about the persons general health, past medical problems and difficulties the person has been suffering. Urine, blood and spinal fluid tests, memory tests such as problem solving, attention, counting and language testing. Brain scans are also carried out.
Rather than being able to diagnose AD these tests are carried out to eliminate other possible diseases that present AD symptoms. Conditions such as thyroid problems, drug reactions, depression, brain tumours, and blood vessel disease in the brain can lead to similar symptoms to AD. The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not currently known, scientists believe that genetics is involved in familial AD, this is a rare form of AD that can occur between the ages of 30-60. The more common form of AD is not known to be inherited and is set on later in life.
It is believed now that this more common form is brought on possibly by a type of gene called apolipoprotein E (APOe). Everyone has three forms of this gene, one that protects from AD, one that apparently increases the likelihood of the development of AD and one that helps to carry cholesterol. It is expected that other genes are also involved. The risk of a child developing familial AD from a normal father and a woman that suffers from AD will be this: The AD is on the X chromosome and is recessive.