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Alzheimer's Disease - history and promising treatments

Alzheimer's Disease - history and promising treatments

Optum Perks Author

By Optum Perks Author

Alzheimer's Disease is a type of mental dementia causing severe problems with a patient’s long and short-term memory, rational thought and everyday behaviors. Known throughout the medical community as ‘one of the most heartbreaking disease’, Alzheimer’s sufferers gradually develop symptoms like memory loss and diminished intellectual abilities, which progressively worsen as the disease continues. In later stage patients, physical symptoms can be widely observed, and patients very often have no memory of who they are or much of their life, and have immense difficulty recognizing and remembering loves ones. Alzheimer’s disease effectively robs an individual of their mind, making this disease not just terrible for the patient, but the family and loved ones as well.

History of Alzheimer’s disease 

Problems with learning and memory in older individuals have been collectively witnessed for centuries, but it wasn’t until a German psychiatrist named Alois Alzheimer witnessed the symptoms in a patient he was observing. Following her case closely, up to the point of the patient’s death. Alzheimer publicly reported on the case and his observations, after which eleven similar cases were reported. Since Alzheimer was the first to report on it, his name became synonymous with it, leading to the modern-day name Alzheimer’s disease.

The effects of Alzheimer’s disease

Though the effects of Alzheimer’s disease can vary drastically from patient to patient, one of the most common symptoms lies within the learning and memory segments of the brain – with a large population of diagnosed individuals reporting problems remembering newly learned information. This makes is easy to forget the name of a person you just met, losing your place in a conversation or losing small items like keys, wallets, and cell phones. As the disease progresses more severe symptoms can set in, such as change in mood and behavior, confusion about people, places and things – and in the worst cases difficulty walking, eating, drinking and speaking.

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Who does Alzheimer’s disease occur in?

A large majority of Alzheimer’s sufferers are over the age of 60, though there are outliers. Historically patients begin showing minor signs of early onset Alzheimer’s in their 40s and 50s, though the symptoms are minor, and often go unnoticed and untreated. Over time, the disease progresses to late-stage Alzheimer’s, and patients deteriorate rapidly, losing their ability to care for themselves, remember faces, even speak – until eventually they succumb to the disease.

What medications can be used to treat it?

Alzheimer’s is one of the most well-studied and well-funded diseases with new treatments and regimens on the market every day. Though there is no known cures for it, there are several medications that can help slow the progression of the disease, giving loved ones valuable time to spend with their families and live a normal existence before worsening,

Currently on the market, there are two FDA approved medications that help lessen memory loss - cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Both of these medications work to stabilize symptoms of memory loss by affecting chemicals that carry messages to the brain’s nerve center, effectively ‘clearing the path’ through neural networks to allow information to flow through, similar to the way a blood thinner helps blood move through engorged veins.

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