Description and History of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease


Sadiat Ige

Baltimore City Community College

Professor Emmanuel Okereke

Anatomy and Physiology



I. INTRODUCTION: Name, Description and History of Alzheimer’s Disease……………4

II. ANATOMY OF THE SYSTEM: Effects, Signs, Symptoms & Complications ………..4

III DIAGNOSIS: Test, Treatments & Side Effects & Prognosis of the disease …….……..5

IV CONCLUSION ………………………………………………………………………….7

V REFERENCES…………………………………………………………………………..8


Alzheimer’s disease is also known as senile dementia. It occurs when brain cells deteriorate and ultimately cause loss of memory and motor skills. Alzheimer’s disease has no cure only treatment makes it manageable. Alzheimer’s disease usually takes a physical toll on its patients who become socially frustrated with an unusual psychological knock-on effect resulting from the individual feeling alone and unable to do what they had done without help all their life. The effects of Alzheimer’s diseases on individuals, their relatives, caregivers and society make it imperative to discuss the physiological and corporeal mechanisms of the disease with a bid to increase awareness and ultimately highlight its importance today.


Alzheimer’s disease derives its name from a German medical doctor named Dr. Alois Alzheimer. In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer observed his patient (Auguste D.) had significant memory loss, erratic behavior and language problems. After her death, an autopsy revealed that her brain had tangled bundle of fibers (now identified as neurofibrillary or tau tangles) and many abnormal clusters (now identified as amyloid plaques) around the nerve cells.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is a progressively degenerating disease that attacks the human brain, leading to loss of memory, unclear thinking, unusual behavior and affects other mental abilities. An AD patient may show signs such as confusion, personality changes, aggression, poor judgment, language difficulties, inability to articulate thoughts completely or follow directions. Alzheimer’s disease is the most significant cause of dementia among older people. Dementia occurs when cognitive functions such as remembering, reasoning and thinking greatly reduces such that it changes performance of routine activities altering daily lives. Dementia ranges from the mildest stage where it minimally alters the individuals functioning to its most severe stage where the individual depends completely on others for daily activities even the simplest tasks.

Alzheimer’s disease symptoms start to appear in people in their mid-60s upwards. It is estimated that over 5million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease, however, these figures vary. In 2015, a cost upwards of $226 billion in direct costs was spent on care for those with AD. The implications of AD may severely limit daily activities and make it difficult to perform routine tasks such as getting dressed. These negative consequences remarkably increase the need for a caregiver on a case by case basis coupled with other attendant issues that accompany it. The high demand of caregivers puts a financial strain on families of patients with AD (Alzheimer’s Association, 2016).


The beginning, the progression of AD as well as unraveling the complex changes to the brain is an ongoing process. However, it seems likely that actual symptoms like memory loss and other cognitive inhibitions appear at least a decade after the beginning of brain damage. During the preclinical stages, the symptoms develop very slowly and advance the cause of the disease. The individual does not only suffer from loss of episodic memory (personal life events) but also learning difficulties and mild depression. At this stage, only family members or close associates will be able to notice a change in the mental sharpness of their loved one. At the mid-stage, the individual will experience an increase in memory loss and a decline in the ability to perform daily chores. Mood changes will be noticeable at this stage highlighting a progressive deterioration of brain cells and advancement of the disease. The ability to recognize family members will progressively reduce at this point. This significant loss of memory causes fear, apprehension, and confusion. Finally, in the last stage, the individual may not be able to control speech and swallow which leads to weight loss and other medical troubles. A patient is more likely to require permanent care and most likely bedridden until the end of their life (NIH, 2017).

Presently, although the way AD affects the brain is known, unfortunately, the cause is still unknown. AD develops when tau protein tangles and amyloid plaques form in the brain. The amyloid plaques occur when amyloid-beta proteins accumulate, disrupting nerve transmission and causing neurons to die. When tau proteins detach from neurons and become tangled the neurons also die. The death of multiple numbers of neurons causes extreme deterioration of the brain. Although the brain of the individual may look the same size and shape, the loss of the neurons and expansion of the ventricles makes it weigh less, while the loss of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine leads to loss of cognitive abilities (Huether & McCance, 2012).


Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed by series of cognitive abilities tests or by autopsy. It is important to note however that definitive diagnosis of AD can only be made by performing an autopsy on the patient’s brain. This autopsy will reveal the existence or non-existence of cerebral deterioration from lost neurons.

Conventionally, however, medical doctors use some methods and tools to decipher if an individual suffering memory loss is suffering from “probable Alzhemia’s dementia” meaning that no other cause of dementia can be found or “possible Alzhemia’s dementia” which means there may be another cause of dementia.

For the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, doctors may ask the person or relatives about overall health, ability to perform daily activities, personality and behavioral changes. They may also conduct some cognitive tests such as counting, timing, problem-solving, memory and language. In addition, they may carry out some medical tests such as urine/blood tests to eliminate other probable causes. Finally, they may perform some brain scans such as positron emission tomography (PET), computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify other possible causes (NIH, 2017).

Alzheimer’s remain incurable because the proteins that cause the problem are naturally part of the brain. The proteins are essential to life and survival, therefore it is currently impossible to remove the clustered protein without killing the patient. However, non-drug treatments and pharmaceutical treatments may assuage behavioral and cognitive symptoms and subsequently improve the life of the patient. Available research points to the fact that presently there is no cure for AD and the degenerative occurrences as a result of AD are irreversible (Huether & McCance, 2012).

Palliative care remains important to AD sufferers due to the lack of viable and regenerative treatments. It is also extremely important that people with AD feel safe, comfortable during end-of-life care because the burden of being badly confused and scare at the end of their lives.

The complexity of AD makes it highly unlikely that one drug or any other intervention will successfully treat it. The current palliative measures engaged in the management of the disease at best help people manage behavioral symptoms, maintain mental processes and delay the symptoms of AD. Researchers hope to develop treatments that can target specific genetic, cellular and molecular mechanisms, therefore, halting the proliferation of neuron loss.

Current approaches focus on helping people maintain mental function, manage behavioral symptoms, and slow or delay the symptoms of the disease. Researchers hope to develop therapies targeting specific genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms so that the actual underlying cause of the disease can be stopped or prevented.


Researchers have been battling with AD for over a century and one important question that is gaining increased attention is the possibility of diagnosing Alzheimer’s before the symptoms show up. The interesting ideas seem to revolve around catching a glimpse of the existence of the disease and they hope that soon enough we will be able to diagnose the disease in its very early stages before irreversible brain atrophy or mental degeneration occurs.

There have been several attempts by researchers to find the possibility of prevention of AD. No consensus has been reached yet but the efforts being made in this direction cannot be over emphasized. The influence of exercise, diet, mental stimulation, social stimulation and others in the development of AD is being explored as well. Although research is not conclusive, it has been observed that some certain lifestyle choices such as physical activity and diet could help support a healthy brain function and prevent Alzheimer’s. Many of the lifestyle changes mentioned have been shown to lower the risk of other diseases like diabetes and heart diseases which have been linked to AD. Eating plenty of heart-healthy options such as limiting intake of sugar, saturated fats as well as eating lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains also significantly supports a healthy brain function.

The importance of an effective treatment method or prevention cannot be overemphasized because the number of people with AD will increase significantly if the current U.S. population trends continue. The risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age and current trends show the U.S. population is aging. The number of years it takes for new drugs to be administered is quite long, making it critical to arrest the unchecked proliferation of this disease.

The strides that have been made in recent years point the fact that if efforts are redoubled it may soon be possible in to diagnose preclinical levels of AD and improve the outlook for AD sufferers.


Alzheimer’s Association (2016). Alzheimer’s Disease. 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Retrieved from

Alzheimer’s Association (2017). Alzheimer’s Disease – What We Know Today About Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Retrieved from

Baumgart, M.; Snyder, H. M.; Carrillo, M. C.; Fazio, S.; Kim, H.; Johns, H. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, June 2015; Vol. 11(6): 718-726. (9 pages)

Huether, S., & McCance, K. (2012). Understanding pathophysiology. (5th ed., pp. 357-361). St.  Louis, MO: Elsevier.

Shan, Y. (2013). Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Primary Health Care, 23(6), 32-38.

NIH. U.S Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Aging. (2017). About Alzheimer’s Disease: Alzheimer’s Basics. Retrieved from:

Sternberg, Robert J. (2007). Cognitive Psychology, Fifth Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Storandt, Martha. (2008). Cognitive deficits in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(3), pp. 198-201.


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