Alzheimer’s cases of the early-onset form of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s
is a nebulous disease, full of foggy and uncovered causes, effects, and
treatments. But what does that mean? Around 5.5 million Americans live with
Alzheimer’s disease as of 2017. one in ten people aged 65 or older have this
disorder. Two out of three people with Alzheimer’s are women. The likelihood of
getting Alzheimer’s increases by 200% for African Americans and 150% for
Hispanics. To put that in perspective, every 66 seconds, someone in America
develops Alzheimer’s, developing or developed, it becomes a part of their daily
lives.

The
word Alzheimer’s or words “Alzheimer’s disease” may mean nothing to you without
knowing what is actually happening when someone develops this disorder.
Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in the United States, and this is
due to the effect it has on the brain. When neurons connect and communicate at
synapses in the brain, tiny bursts of chemicals called neurotransmitters carry
information from one cell to another. However, Alzheimer’s interposes this
process and destroys neurons and synapses over time, damaging the brain’s communication
web. This cuts off key functions of the brain and causes nerve cells and
connections to dissipate from brain tissue, leading to the brain physically
shrinking over a period of time.

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So
how does Alzheimer’s occur? Knowledge of Alzheimer’s is limited and the
relationship between cause and effect is unclear. However, cases of the
early-onset form of Alzheimer’s has an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern,
meaning that inheriting a single altered gene is enough to trigger the
disorder. Gene mutations that are passed down through family bloodlines can
result in the alteration of the genes APP, PSEN1, or PSEN2. After one of these
genes is altered, large amounts of amyloid beta peptide, a toxic protein
fragment, form in the brain. From there, the peptide can build up and clump to
form amyloid plaques, which are able to destroy nerve cells and reveal symptoms
of Alzheimer’s. The Punnett square for early-onset Alzheimer’s may look
something akin to this:

 

A

a

a

Aa

aa

a

Aa

aa

A
= affected a = unaffected

Late-onset
Alzheimer’s is another story. The inheritance pattern is not defined in the
same way early-onset cases are. Rather, inheriting a copy of the APOE e4 allele
increases the chances of developing the disease, and inheriting two of these
alleles increases the chances even further. The development associated with the
APOE e4 allele is not to be confused with actually having Alzheimer’s, as this
specific allele does not necessarily give rise to Alzheimer’s. While some
reports have shown that late-onset Alzheimer’s tends to cluster in families,
there are no hard facts that indicate a clear pattern. A multitude of factors
such as lifestyle and environment may impact the likelihood of developing or
preventing Alzheimer’s.

Crazy,
forgetful, emotional, tired – all these words can be carelessly used to
describe a person affected by Alzheimer’s. These individuals are often written
off for old age when there is a deeper situation at hand. Only one out of every
four people with Alzheimer’s are actually diagnosed, and even less have been
treated. An arsenal of symptoms can help identify someone who might have
Alzheimer’s in order to begin treatment in the earlier progressive stages. An extreme
loss of memory–so much so that it constantly affects daily life – can be one
of the key clues in diagnosing someone with Alzheimer’s. When a person begins
to have trouble concentrating, especially when working with numbers and
following a specific set of instructions, this often offers another sign. Most
symptoms are in extremes so an average amount of activity in each of these categories
could just be a sign of old age. Other indicators include difficulties
completing daily tasks, confusion of where one is or how one got there, warped
perception of depth or color contrast, trouble following conversations and
talking repetitively without knowing how to continue, the misplacement of
objects and blaming other for theft, continuous poor judgement, closing oneself
off from social scenes or hobbies that one used to enjoy, and constant mood
swings (often portraying anger and frustration).

Taking action after
diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is vital; the earlier the better, as this can help
slow down progression of the disorder. It is also essential to identify how
progressed and/or severe the stage of Alzheimer’s is. Drugs such as Donepezil
and Rivastigmine are used to treat all stages of Alzheimer’s, and Galantamine
is used for mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer’s. The drugs donepezil, galantamine,
and rivastigmine, also known as cholinesterase inhibitors, slow down the
process conducted by Alzheimer’s where crucial neurotransmitters are broken
down. The last drug used to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s is called
Memantine. Memantine is a N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist which
regulates the activity of glutamate, an important neurotransmitter focused on
learning and memory. Attachment of glutamate to cell surfaces called NMDA
allows calcium to enter the cell, which is important for cell signaling, in
addition to learning and memory. However, if Alzheimer’s disease is contracted,
a surplus amount of glutamate can be released from damaged cells, which incurs an
overexposure to calcium that may lead to progressed cell damage. Prevention
before diagnosis can be powerful. After reaching the age of 60, it is
beneficial to keep up with yourself. Learning new lessons consistently can keep
your brain working, developing, and problem solving. This can delay Alzheimer’s
and keep your mental health up. There is a surplus of factors that can
contribute to developing Alzheimer’s, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle is
imperative. Being surrounded by proper emotional support can be a great help to
those with Alzheimer’s. Going to support groups or having family and friends
learn more about Alzheimer’s to help one through their journey can show those
with this disorder that they are not alone, and this care sometimes can even hamper
symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

“We will cure you.” – a version of these four words can be a
relief and a source of hope. It is important to know that while Alzheimer’s can
be treated, there is no cure. Alzheimer’s is a fatal disorder, in
unconventional and conventional definitions. Alzheimer’s creates serious
forgetfulness that can cause a person to forget important people to them and
ultimately forget who they are; this would be an unconventional death, as one’s
body remains alive, but only physically. Depending on how fast Alzheimer’s
progresses, as this depends from individual to individual, the leaving of
memories and personality can be felt at different points during the development
of the disorder. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s are the real fatality, not the disease
itself. Such symptoms can cause walking and swallowing to be hindered and lead
to pneumonia, urinary tract infections, pressure sores, or aspiration – the
actual causes of passing. Alzheimer’s does not cause immediate death, and most
healthy patients live for 5 more years after developing the disorder or 10 to
15 years if diagnosed and treated properly. This is why it is essential to
learn as much as possible in order to see what can be done in the future.

Understanding the who, what, how, where, and when is the
basis of properly understanding Alzheimer’s disease. From there, there is a
whole mass of unknown, unexplored territory. The cause and effect of this
disorder can be delved deeper into and more research can be done in order to
bring depth as well as light to this mysterious disease. Exploring possible
treatments such as stem cell therapy or other genetic therapies is another
option. Considering its high death tolls, the lack of awareness surrounding
Alzheimer’s is shocking. Spreading the word starts with one person and one idea.
Diagnosing more people and diagnosing them earlier can make all the difference.
No cure today does not mean that there will never be a cure, and all this prior
material provides a springboard for future research, actions, and solutions to
support people with Alzheimer’s.

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