What causes Alzheimer’s disease is not yet known. However, scientists are trying to find possible causes and identify trigger factors that may lead to the development of this potentially fatal disease.
A significant amount of scientific research and clinical studies performed over the years has indicated that Alzheimer’s disease may be caused due to a variety of factors including factors in the environment, biochemical disturbances and immune processes. The cause may vary from person to person and may be due to one factor or a number of factors.
Neurons in the brain are gradually destroyed in Alzheimer’s disease
Brain cells are also known as neurons. These neurons communicate with each other by means of connections. These connections are referred to as synapses. When a person is affected by Alzheimer’s disease, the synapses are gradually broken down. Over a period of years, these synapses ultimately disappear entirely in the parts of the brain which are associated with the thinking, memory and the personality traits.
Many clinical researchers have conducted post mortems of the brains of people who have died from Alzheimer’s disease in order to understand the pathophysiology of this disease. These post mortems have shown that there are damaged brain cells in the affected individual. These damaged cells are referred to as ‘tangles’ . There is also a buildup of protein known as A-beta in the spaces between these damaged brain cells. This protein is an otherwise normal protein. But the buildup of the protein in between the otherwise healthy cells may lead to the degeneration of the cells and affect their communication. The protein build up occurs in the form of plaques which are known as ‘amyloid plaques’ . Scientists are still trying to determine as to why this protein buildup occurs in some people and not in others.
Risk Factors in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease
Some of the factors that increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease are listed below:
- Old Age
Advancing age increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease can happen to anybody, but it is much more common after the age of 65.
- Genetic Predisposition
Alzheimer’s disease runs in families. In many cases, researchers have found that a person suffering from this disease usually has a parent or a close family member also suffering from it.
- Down Syndrome
A person with Down syndrome has an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease because they have an extra chromosome.