Among people who are 65 years old and above, Alzheimer's disease is said to be the most widespread reason for dementia. According to medical specialists, presently, as many as four million people are enduring this malady in the United States alone. In fact, researches have found out that approximately one in every 10 people above 65 years and almost 50% of people above 85 years are suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Every year, a minimum of 360,000 people in the United States are detected to be suffering from Alzheimer's disease and around 50,000 of them succumb to their illness.
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Generally, the signs of Alzheimer's disease become visible after a person has attained 65 years of age. Nevertheless, there are types of Alzheimer's disease where the symptoms appear quite early in life.
These symptoms are normally related to particular genetic flaws and many become visible even when a person is just 30 years of age. People suffering from Alzheimer's disease usually experience a decrease in their cerebral or intellectual aptitude and this normally happens during a period of just seven to ten years.
When an individual is afflicted by Alzheimer's disease, he or she experiences damage of nerve cells in the brain that affects all activities controlled by it - movement, verbal communication, memory, judgment, performance as well as abstract thinking (thinking distinguished by the capability to use perceptions and to make and comprehend generalizations).
In fact, two aberrations in the brain usually distinguish Alzheimer's disease - neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques, from other forms of dementia. Amyloid plagues are actually abnormal clusters of a protein called beta amyloid and are normally present in the tissues located between the nerve cells. They are found in company with deteriorate fragments of neurons and other types of cells.
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Neurofribils are describes as long, fine and minute fibers or filaments that pass through the neurons and spread out to the axon and dendrites providing form and support to the neuron. Neurofribils tangles are clusters of twisted neurofribils that are present in the body of a neuron found in the brain cells of patients enduring Alzheimer's disease.
They more or less comprise a protein called tau. In neurons that are vigorous, this protein facilitates the working of microtubules that form a part of the cell's physical support and provide substances all through the nerve cell. On the other hand, in the case of Alzheimer's disease, the tau protein is transformed in such a manner that it is twisted in pairs of spiral fibers that eventually form knots or get intervened. In such situations, the microtubules are unable to operate and, hence, collapse.
The disintegration of the transportation system of the neurons is likely to break the communication between the nerve cells and they eventually pass away.
It may be mentioned here that till date, scientists are yet to ascertain if neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques are actually detrimental for the patients enduring Alzheimer's disease or they are simply spin-offs of the malady's process that harms the neurons and results in the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. However, the scientists are aware of the fact that the amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles generally augment in the brain with the advancement of Alzheimer's disease.
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During the initial stages of Alzheimer's disease, the patients may endure loss of memory, decline in the ability to give opinions and even delicate personality alterations.
With the advancement of the malady, patients not only find difficulty in remembering things and in their verbal communications, but also find it problematic to perform their routine activities like bearing in mind when to take medicines and maintaining their check book accounts. In due course, the patients may also experience visuospatial problems (problems relating to visual perception of spatial relationships among objects) like trouble in finding the way in unknown directions.
People suffering from Alzheimer's disease are also likely to become confused regarding locations and times and experience hallucination - for instance, someone is robbing them of something or their spouse is being adulterous. In addition, such patients may also turn out to be irritable or impatient and, in some cases, even antagonistic or aggressive. In the latter phase of Alzheimer's disease, the patients start losing their aptitude to be in control of their cerebral functions and may have problems in swallowing, lose bowel and regulating the working of the bladder.
Ultimately, the patients lose their ability to identify or recognize even their family members as well as their capability to speak. As Alzheimer's disease advances, the malady also starts having an effect on the patient's feelings/ sensations and activities. Eventually, majority of the people suffering from Alzheimer's disease have symptoms like hostility, irritation/ anxiety, dejection, insomnia and/ or hallucinations.
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Generally, after an individual is diagnosed of having suffered from Alzheimer's disease, they live for another eight to ten years. Nevertheless, there are instances when people enduring this malady have even lived for 20 years after being diagnosed. It has been seen that majority of the people suffering from Alzheimer's disease generally succumb to aspiration pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs caused by inhaling or choking on substances vomited by them), as during the course of the ailment, they lose the capability to gulp down late.
Corticobasal degeneration (CBD) is a disorder wherein the condition of the patient continues to deteriorate gradually. This malady is distinguished by loss of nerve cells and deterioration of several regions of the brain. It has been found the nerve cells in the brain of people suffering from corticobasal degeneration usually have anomalous build-up of the protein tau.
Generally, this disorder advances little by little over a period of six to eight years. The symptoms of CBD generally first become noticeable when the patient is approximately 60 years old. Usually, the symptoms first appear on one side of the body and ultimately have an effect on both sides. Some symptoms of CBD are similar to those of Parkinson's disease.
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For instance, poor synchronization of the physical movements with the brain and firmness are common in both the maladies. In addition, people suffering from corticobasal degeneration may also experience symptoms, such as loss of memory, visual-spatial troubles (also known as visuospatial problems), dementia, apraxia (inability to make common and focused movements), difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia), slurry and stumbling speech and myoclonus (uncontrolled shuddering of the muscles).
It is unfortunate that till date there is no precise remedy for corticobasal degeneration. However, some medications may be somewhat effective in alleviating certain symptoms of this malady, but not all can be cured. For instance, medications like clonazepam will possibly be useful in treating myoclonus (involuntary muscular jerks), while professional, physical and speech therapy may prove to be effective in dealing with some of the debilities related to this ailment. In fact, it has been noticed that the symptoms of CBD usually don't react to the medications used to treat Parkinson's disease or other medications.