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Sickness and Insanity

In: English and Literature

Submitted By yopilax
Words 1572
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Sickness and Insanity
Shawn M. Crannell
COM/155F1
9/15/2013
Professors, Nicole Elliot-Laboray and Alan Bryant

Sickness and Insanity

Many people will hear that another has a disease in their brain and assume them potentially insane, if not outright. The brain is the place where all logic is formed and all action is defined. It then stands to reason that any attacking force will break the calculator. This however, is a poor assumption to make, as no two diseases behave in the same way. The Origins of both Acromegaly and Alzheimer’s for instance, are as unique to one another as their behaviors within the body. Acromegaly has an odd sounding name. Its Latin root words are “Acro”, meaning “High” and “Megaly”, meaning “Abnormal growth” or enlargement. This particular disease occurs below the brain and around the pituitary gland. Alzheimer’s has a different origin, entirely, having been named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who discovered the disease; it affects the brain directly. While the two chronic diseases Acromegaly and Alzheimer’s exist near the brain, their effects to the host can be extremely different; by way of cause, growth, signs, and long term effect; this fact should be understood and respected.

From their inception, Acromegaly and Alzheimer’s differ from one another on even the most fundamental of levels. While no one is certain of the catalyst, it is known that one disease is concerned with tissue growth while conversely, the other causes tissue death. Typically, Acromegaly is caused by the growth of a tumor. Tumors are the result of cellular mutation and replication. The tumor’s growth begins to stimulate the pituitary gland and essentially “Milks” it. The gland begins to overproduce human growth hormone. As the cells mutate, other cells begin to replicate them, assuming them to be the proper composition. Each replication speeds the tumor’s growth. Conversely, Alzheimer’s disease is the result of the deterioration of brains cells, rather than the growth of new ones. Within the cell membranes, a carrier system is in place to relay nutrient throughout the cell. These “Tubes” are comprised of Tau proteins. One of the two defining characteristics of this disease is that these tubes become bent and knotted. This stops the flow of much needed nutrient to the cell and consequently, it dies slowly over time. The common medical reference to a Tau protein tube in this state is a “Tangle”. When this happens, a second phenomenon also occurs. Beta-Amyloid proteins begin to form on the cell’s outer walls, disrupting communication with other brain cells. Because of the nature in which they form, they are referred to as “Clumps”.

During their growth cycle, Alzheimer’s and acromegaly continue to share no similarities more than that of their status as “Diseases”, and tendency for rapid progression. Acromegaly will encroach and apply great pressure to all of the organs in the vicinity, including the brain. It will begin to envelop the brain stem and also grow into the sinus cavity. It will fill in all of the free space within the head and then begin pushing the existing flesh outward. In response to this pressure, the pituitary gland will produce larger and larger amounts of human growth hormone. This will begin to wreak havoc on all of the organs as nearly every part of the human body is affected by this hormone. The skeletal system, heart, lungs, eyes, liver, kidneys, reproductive organs, skin and thyroid are some of the more prevalent. In contrasting behavior, Alzheimer’s remains within the brain. Over time, as cells begin to develop the tangles and clumps, they begin to die as well as lose communication with one another. As this occurs, the brain having less cells to comprise it, loses mass; it quite literally shrinks. The entire process builds speed as the cells mimic each other in a resonating cascade. This effect applies to both the tangles as well as the clumps. The rest of the body is also affected but this is because of the assault on the brain and nervous system. The brain begins to lose its capacity entirely as neural pathways cease relaying information, both cognitive and motor.

Later, as both Acromegaly and Alzheimer’s creep deeper into their life cycles, both will begin to exhibit signs of their existence, further continuing the pattern of differentiation from one another. The signs associated with Acromegaly are extremely varied and body wide. As the pituitary gland produces growth hormone for an extended duration, the patient begins to exhibit abnormal growth. The first noticeable changes to the body are of the soft extremities. Ears and lips become larger, the nose become bulbous, and the hands and feet swell. The person, who could have originally been quite slender, begins to take on a stout and swollen appearance. Over time, their skeletal structure will begin to gain density; their head and body will become abnormally large. This skeletal growth creates complications in movement and backaches are common, as is pain in the most common of actions. The excessive growth hormone makes their skin hard and scaly and nails thicker; it stresses the thyroid and consequently creates fatigue. Contrarily, as Alzheimer’s advances, a lack of intercellular communication and death of starved brain cells cause lack of access to them. This is displayed in the loss of memory. The patient begins to forget everything they ever knew. This starts with the most trivial and intricate memories, such as experiences, directions and processes to a function. Over time as this develops further, they begin to lose the more primal memories and baser functions. They will lose track of the time, the date or the day of the week. They will forget where they are, even if they have existed there for years. They will forget how to eat or even to eat at all. The typical gait of a human walking is as different as night and day from that of an Alzheimer’s patient. Lack of proper motor function reduces the stride to a simple shuffle and ultimately, lack of the ability to walk whatsoever. The ability to quantitatively deduce numerical values as well as the names and identities of their own children hold the same respect and eventually will fall by the wayside.

In the end, if either Acromegaly or Alzheimer’s disease are left untreated, the result is the same: death. Acromegaly is highly treatable but unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease is not. When the condition of Acromegaly is unidentified and left to grow unchecked, the results are staggering. The long term effects of high levels of human growth hormone on the body are plainly visible. The bones become excessively large and the person takes on a “Cro-Magnon” visage. The tumor will by this point have grown to such immense proportion, that the eyes bulge out and their breathing is inhibited by both the lack of sinus passage, as well as their swollen tongue. Ultimately, the tumor will wrap and kill the optic nerve, causing blindness. The tumor will constrict the major arteries supplying the brain with oxygen and blood. When this occurs, the person will die. In seemingly outright opposition, the hope that acromegaly poses is entirely nonexistent for the patients of Alzheimer’s. It has no cure and few treatments. Of those that exist, they exist simply to prolong the inevitable. Its effects can be diminished but ultimately they reach nadir, regardless of treatment. These effects include, loss of long and short term memory, inability to discern environment or location, and brain death. The ultimate course of Alzheimer’s through a mixture of cellular death and lack of intercellular communication, is dementia. With the tangles propagating at an advanced rate and the cells deteriorating, the brain and the host, in tandem both die. If the disease has run its course, they die having lost all accumulated information and all taught action, from the course of their entire life. They quite literally lose themselves. Meanwhile, the patient of acromegaly may die but typically retains full use of their faculty.

Clearly, the diseases Acromegaly and Alzheimer’s differ from one another on every level, from inception, through development, the displaying of signs, and even in their end stages as well as closure. Their origins are from entirely different genetic defects, No one test will detect both simultaneously. Their damage to the body is of different types and locations. The only similarity they share is the threat of death, should either disease see completion. Regardless of the grave nature of these two maladies and the fact of their being “Brain diseases”, it is never safe to assume that all such afflictions are capable of rendering a person insane. The truth is, they are sad and unfair; some are because they could have been avoided if identified early, others because they could not. Remember, a person cannot be defined or identified by a disease. To attempt such a biased judgment is criminal. In truth, does anyone really know what might be cultivating in their own head?

REFERENCES

American Cancer Society, “What is cancer?” http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancerbasics/what-is-cancer Alzheimer’s Association, “What is Alzheimer’s?” http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp The Mayo Clinic, “Alzheimer’s Disease Causes” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161/DSECTION=causes John Hopkins Medicine, “Acromegaly” http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/specialty_areas/pituitary_center/conditions/acromegaly.html Acromegaly Info .com, “What Causes Acromegaly?”http://www.acromegalyinfo.com/patient/understanding/acromegaly-causes.jsp?site=PC001026&irmasrc=SDSWB0033&source=01030…...

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