Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia, a group of brain disorders that impair a person's mental functioning, especially memory, thinking, and behavior. The term Alzheimer's disease refers to a condition discovered by a doctor called Alois Alzheimer. In 1907 he wrote in medical textbooks about a woman of 51 who had died of dementia, whose brain he had examined under the microscope.
This examination showed changes he had never seen before. In certain parts of the brain, were tangled together, and in other areas there was clumping of brain matter. As time went on, he discovered more "younger" people who had died of dementia had the same brain abnormalities. This condition was to be known as Alzheimer's disease.
It was subsequently noted that the same type of dementia (With the same symptoms) occurred much more frequently in older people, i.e. when their brains were examined under a microscope, the showed the same abnormalities.
At this time, only younger people were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease as this was what Lois Alzheimer had concentrated on. Older people were diagnosed with pre-senile dementia or Senile dementia of the Alzheimer type (SDAT).
This differentiation made things complicated however and nowadays because dementia in younger people is comparatively rare; it is now common to refer to the whole group as Alzheimer's disease.
The term "Alzheimer's disease" can't possibly convey the complicated set of symptoms that make up this condition unless you personally know someone who suffers from it.
One of the best descriptions I've heard of is "A living death" Another more medical term describes it as "the slow onset of memory loss with a gradual progression to a loss of judgement and changes in behaviour and temperament.
A more complicated and definitive definition from the Royal College of Physicians describes Alzheimers disease as
"Dementia is the global impairment of higher functions, including memory, the capacity to solve the problems of day to day living, the performance of learned perceptuo-motor skills, the correct use of social skills, and the control of emotional reactions in the absence of gross clouding of consciousness.
Performance of learned perceptuo-motor skills = our learned responses such as washing, dressing and eating.
What Causes Alzheimer's Disease
Scientists still don't fully understand what causes Alzheimer's Disease, but a great deal of research is being conducted around the world, and a lot of progress has been made, particularly in the past 5 years.
The research into the causes and possible cures for Alzheimer's Disease are very important areas of research. Understanding the causes should lead to more effective, targeted treatments and additional options for treating the disease in the future.
At this stage, scientists generally agree that there is unlikely to be a single clear cause for Alzheimer's. What is clear is that Alzheimer's develops as a result of a very complex cascade of biological processes that take place over many years inside the brain.
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