Hannah C. Bleck
University of Michigan – Flint
Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent type of dementia (Porth, 2011). Dementia is defined as “severe impairment or loss of intellectual capacity and personality integration, due to
the loss of or damage to neurons in the brain” (Dementia, 2013). Sixty to eighty percent of all dementia in the world is caused by Alzheimer’s disease and currently affects four and a half million people in the United States alone (Porth, 2011). Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by very slow onset for it progresses over several years. Over these several years five major anatomical changes happen in the brain of the patient. The first is enlargement of the ventricles along with widespread cerebral cortex atrophy (Porth, 2011).
A six year case study found that surgery to try to change brain factors associated with advancement of dementia did not work and in fact increased atrophy in the cortical gray matter and hippocampus in the first five to nine months when compared to participants that did not receive surgery (Klein et al., 2012). Surgery also contributed to lateral ventricular enlargement in the same time frame (Klein et al., 2012). After the time frame of five to nine months there were no differences between the surgical patients and the non-surgical patients in the rate of deterioration of the brain (Klein et al., 2012).
The three last signs are the major pathophysiological variations in Alzheimer’s disease. These changes are the presence of neurofibrillary tangles, neuritic plaques and of amyloid beta peptides (Porth, 2011). According to Porth (2011), “Neurofibrillary tangles are found in the cytoplasm of abnormal neurons and consist of fibrous proteins wound around each other…they are resistant to chemical and enzymatic breakdown and persist long after the neuron has died” (p. 959-960). Neurofibrillary tangles occur when abnormal tau proteins accumulate around neurons, usually in the...