Definition of Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease (AD) interrupts important processes that keep neurons in the brain healthy. These interruptions cause nerve cells to stop working, lose connections with other nerve cells, and finally die. The destruction of nerve cells is what causes the memory failure, personality changes, problems carrying out daily tasks, and other features of the disease.
The brains of people with AD have a large amount of two abnormal structures - amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. This abundance usually occurs first in the areas of the brain that are responsible for making new memories.
The third main feature of AD is the loss of connections between cells. This leads to a decline in the ability of brain cells to function and ultimately to cell death.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: NIH Publication Number 08-3782."Alzheimer's Disease: Unraveling the Mystery". pg. 21. September 2008.
Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease
There is no such thing as typical Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the most common symptom is the gradually worsening ability to remember new information. This is usually the first symptom because the damage typically occurs first in the areas of the brain that are responsible for making new memories. As the damage spreads to other parts of the brain, individuals can experience impaired judgment or reasoning, confusion, disorganized behavior, difficulty in accomplishing multi-stepped tasks, word finding difficulty, and disorientation to time and place. Eventually, a person with AD will need help with daily tasks like dressing, bathing, eating and using the bathroom.
Alzheimer's Association. "2009 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures". pgs. 5-7. 2009