Alzheimer’s Diseaseis the most common cause of dementia in older people. A dementia is a medical condition that disrupts the way the brain works. Alzheimer’s Disease affects the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. Although the risk of getting the disease increases with age, it is not a normal part of aging. At present the cause of the disease is unknown and there is no cure.
- Initial mild forgetfulness
- Confusion with names and simple mathematical problems
- Forgetfulness to do simple everyday tasks, i.e., brushing their teeth
- Problems speaking, understanding, reading and writing
- Behavioral and personality changes
- Aggressive, anxious, or aimless behavior
No definitive test to diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease in living patients exits. However, in specialized research facilities, neurologists now can diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease with up to 90% accuracy. The following is some of the information used to make this diagnosis:
- A complete medical history
- Basic medical tests (i.e., blood, urine tests)
- Neuropsychological tests (i.e., memory, problem-solving, language tests)
- Brain scans (i.e., MRI scan, CT scan or PET scan)
POSSIBLE RISK FACTORS
Scientists are trying to learn what causes Alzheimer’s Disease and how to prevent it. This list may not be all-inclusive or definite. However, research has lead scientists to consider these as possible risk factors:
- Genetic factors
- Environmental factors – aluminum, zinc, and other metals have been detected in the brain tissue of those with Alzheimer’s Disease. However, it isn’t known whether they cause Alzheimer’s Disease, or build up in the brain as a result of Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Viruses – Viruses that might cause the changes seen in the brain tissue of Alzheimer’s Disease patients are being studied.
Alzheimer’s Disease advances in stages, ranging from mild forgetfulness to severe dementia. The course of the disease and the rate of decline varies from person to person. The duration from onset of symptoms to death can be from 5 to 20 years.
Currently, there is not a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, but new forms of treatment can slow the progression of the disease for some individuals. However, some experimental drugs have shown promise in easing symptoms in some patients. Medications can help control behavioral symptoms; making patients more comfortable and easier to manage for caregivers. Still other research efforts focus on alternative care programs that provide relief to the caregiver and support for the patient.
Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center
PO Box 8250
Silver Spring, MD20907-8250