Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease which usually impacts mental and behavioural condition.
Degeneration of neurons is a condition where progressive loss of structure and function of neurons take place. The neurodegeneration can also cause the death of neurons. Other than Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s are also neurodegenerative disease. We’ll discuss Alzheimer’s in this article.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)?
Neurons play an important role in every act that we do, response, or sense. Basically, neurons process and transmit information via specialised connections called synapses. However, sometimes due to neurodegeneration, information transmission interrupts or might also cause neuron death which might lead to Alzheimer’s.
During 1901-1906 a german psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer studied the case of Auguste Deter. In her case, he noticed some peculiar symptoms, such as short-term memory loss, and followed her case until she died. He later performed some tests and came up with a new class of disease which was publically accepted as Alzheimer’s disease in his honour. This made Auguste Deter’s case the first ever described case of AD.
It has been more than a century since first known case of AD but unfortunately, we neither know its proper cause nor its treatment. Although many hypotheses try to explain its cause but none explain it with surety. AD is one of leading cause of dementia. About 60-80% cases of dementia are due to AD.
According to a study, in 2015, there were approximately 48 million known cases of AD. Such commonness does not only affect a human but also affect the working efficiency of a country as a whole. According to a study, AD costs about $100-200 billion each year in just the United States.
The initial symptoms of AD include short-term memory loss, a problem in remembering names of friends and family. Whereas advanced stage can cause problems such as mood swings, loss of motivation, poor thinking ability, and behavioural issues. AD has 7 stages as described below. Gradually AD can lead towards weak body functioning and also can cause death. However, the average life expectancy post-diagnosis is 3-9 years.
After the first diagnosis of AD till most of 1977, the disease was only supposed to be for people with a certain age between 45-65 years. However, in 1977 in a conference, diagnosis of AD was made independent of age.
The first approach towards diagnosis is usually, look for medical history and to observe patient’s behaviour. If the result is supportive, then professionals use further techniques to rule out the presence of any other disease or disorder and to see the possibility of AD. Technologies such as:
- CT scan (Computed Tomography).
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).
- SPECT (Single-photon Emission Computed Tomography).
- PET (Positron Emission Tomography).
- Neuropsychological tests.
- Neurological examination.
Furthermore, some international associations have set some criteria to ease and to accurate the official diagnosis, such as:
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
- NINCDS-ADRDA Alzheimer’s Criteria.
Moreover, microscopic testing of brain tissues is also very useful.
One thing that I must say, it is alarming time to take mental illness seriously. It has been more than 100 years since we know about AD but yet we neither know its exact cause nor treatment. It’s high time to invest our ideas, money, time, and effort in this stream of the medical field.
We need to start talking more about the health risks and costs of Alzheimer’s and make more and more people aware of it right now before it’s too late.