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Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease: Introduction

Alzheimer's disease is a seriously disabling neurodegenerative disease of the brain. Alzheimer's disease progressively damages and destroys such cognitive processes as memory, orientation, and speech. Alzheimer's disease is not curable and is the most common cause of dementia, a progressive and permanent loss of cognitive and mental performance.

Alzheimer's disease begins subtly but eventually progresses into severe disability and an inability to function safely and effectively in daily life and to meet basic needs. There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, and it is one of the ten leading causes of death in the U.S.

The cause of Alzheimer's disease is not yet well understood. However, Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the formation of large numbers of abnormal features in the brain called plaques and tangles. Plaques are dense deposits of protein that build up over time between brain cells. Tangles are twisted fibers of protein that develop inside brain cells. It is believed that plaques and tangles can block communication between brain cells and play a role in brain cell degeneration and brain cell death.

Everyone develops some plaques and tangles as they age, but people with Alzheimer's disease have far greater numbers of them. Plaques and tangles first develop in areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning, but then spread to other areas that control language and thought. This leads to symptoms that include forgetfulness and other problems with memory that become progressively worse. Disorientation, poor judgement, speech difficulties, personality changes, and difficulty completing familiar tasks also occur. Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease eventually progress to become severely disabling. For more details on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Risk factors for developing Alzheimer's disease include being over age 65 and having a family history of Alzheimer's disease. Other risk factors include a history of severe head injury, alcoholism, and having diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other types of cardiovascular disease.

There is no specific diagnostic test that can detect Alzheimer's disease. Making a diagnosis includes a performing a variety of tests and assessments that evaluate the brain and can rule out other causes of Alzheimer's disease symptoms, such as vascular dementia or depression. Diagnosis and treatment may require the collaboration of a variety of providers, including a primary care physician, neurologist, psychiatrist, and/or psychologist.

The diagnostic process begins with taking a thorough personal and family history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. This includes a neurological exam. A neurological exam evaluates the nerves and nervous system and such functions as reflexes, sensation, movement, balance, coordination, vision, and hearing.

Commonly used tests include a mini-mental state examination (MMSE), which evaluates mental function by assessing the answers provided to a series of questions. Imaging tests that are used to help make a diagnosis include CT and MRI, which provide information about the structure of the brain. A PET scan and functional MRI are imaging tests that can show how well different areas of the brain are functioning.

It is possible that a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can be missed or delayed because symptoms develop gradually and are similar to symptoms of other diseases and conditions. For more information about diseases and conditions that can mimic Alzheimer's disease, refer to misdiagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease is not curable, and at this time there are no treatments that can slow the advancement of the disease. However, there are some medications that may help to reduce some symptoms and maximize independence and the quality of life. There are also clinical trials taking place to research a variety of potential treatments. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of Alzheimer's disease. ...more »

Alzheimer's Disease: Alzheimer's disease (AD) affects the mental abilities including memory, language, and cognition. Progressively it leads to dementia and death. AD usually arises in late middle age or the elderly but there is a rare familial subtype that occurs earlier. Because AD is so well-known, other causes of dementia or memory loss may be overlooked. Other possible diagnoses include normal aging (if very mild symptoms), emotional problems, fatigue, depression, and certain medical conditions such as thyroid disease, brain tumors, multi-infarct disease, or Huntington's disease. In its early stages, a correct diagnosis of AD can also be overlooked itself and misdiagnosed as other conditions such as depression, dementia, simple forgetfulness, or senility. ...more »

Alzheimer's Disease: Symptoms

The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease generally develop gradually, and it is believed that the earliest stage of the disease may begin decades before symptoms appear. The way that symptoms of Alzheimer's disease develop varies between individuals. However, every person with Alzheimer's disease ultimately becomes permanently and completely disabled. Symptoms of ...more symptoms »

Alzheimer's Disease: Treatments

There are currently no treatments that can cure or stop the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The care of people with Alzheimer's disease is aimed at minimizing symptoms and maximizing independence and the quality of life as much as possible.

There are some medications that may help to manage some symptoms, and there are many clinical trials taking ...more treatments »

Alzheimer's Disease: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease may be delayed or missed because early symptoms develop gradually and are often associated with the normal aging process. In addition, symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can mimic symptoms of a variety of diseases, disorders or conditions. These include TIA, depression, vascular dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

Treatments for Alzheimer's Disease

  • Mental stimulation
  • Tacrine (THA, Cognex)
  • Aricept (donepezil) - reversible acetylcholinesterase inhibitors
  • Exelon (rivastigmine) - reversible acetylcholinesterase inhibitors
  • Supportive care
  • more treatments...»

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Alzheimer's Disease:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's Disease: Related Patient Stories

Alzheimer's Disease: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Alzheimer's Disease.

Alternative Treatments for Alzheimer's Disease

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Alzheimer's Disease may include:

Types of Alzheimer's Disease

  • Familial Alzheimer's disease - an early-onset inherited genetic form.
  • more types...»

Curable Types of Alzheimer's Disease

Possibly curable types of Alzheimer's Disease include:

Rare Types of Alzheimer's Disease:

Rare types of Alzheimer's Disease include:

Diagnostic Tests for Alzheimer's Disease

Test for Alzheimer's Disease in your own home

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Alzheimer's Disease: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Alzheimer's Disease:

Causes of Alzheimer's Disease

Read more about causes of Alzheimer's Disease.

More information about causes of Alzheimer's Disease:

Disease Topics Related To Alzheimer's Disease

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Alzheimer's Disease:

Alzheimer's Disease: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Alzheimer's Disease

Underactive thryoid may be misdiagnosed as depression: Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is an endocrine gland disorder that is more common in women. It can mimic many...read more »

Undiagnosed stroke leads to misdiagnosed aphasia: BBC News UK reported on a man who had been institutionalized and treated for mental illness...read more »

Alzheimer's disease over-diagnosed: The well-known disease of Alzheimer's disease is often over-diagnosed. Patients tend to assume that any memory loss or...read more »

Dementia may be a drug interaction: A common scenario in aged care is for a patient to show mental decline to dementia. Whereas this can, of course, occur due to various...read more »

Tremor need not be Parkinson's disease: There is the tendency to believe that any tremor symptom, or shakiness, means Parkinson's disease. The reality is that there are various possibilities, such as ...read more »

Mild traumatic brain injury often remains undiagnosed: Although the symptoms of severe brain injury are hard to miss, it is less clear for milder injuries, or even those causing a mild concussion diagnosis. The condition goes by the...read more »

ADHD under-diagnosed in adults: Although the over-diagnoses of ADHD in children is a well-known controversy, the reverse side related to adults. Some adults can remain undiagnosed, and indeed the condition has usually been...read more »

MTBI misdiagnosed as balance problem: When a person has symptoms such as vertigo or dizziness, a diagnosis of brain injury may go overlooked. This is...read more »

Rare diseases misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease: A rare genetic disorder is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease for men in their 50's. The disease Fragile X disorder can show only mild symptoms in the early years,...read more »

Bipolar disorder misdiagosed as various conditions by primary physicians: Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder) often fails to be diagnosed correctly by primary care physicians. Many...read more »

Eating disorders under-diagnosed in men: The typical patient with an eating disorder is female. The result is that men with eating disorders often fail to be diagnosed or have a delayed diagnosis. See ...read more »

Depression undiagnosed in teenagers: Serious bouts of depression can be undiagnosed in teenagers. The "normal" moodiness of teenagers can cause...read more »

Brain pressure condition often misdiagnosed as dementia: A condition that results from an excessive pressure of CSF within the brain is often misdiagnosed. It may be misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease or dementia (such as ...read more »

Post-concussive brain injury often misdiagnosed: A study found that soldiers who had suffered a concussive injury in battle often were misdiagnosed on their return. A variety of symptoms can occur in post-concussion syndrome...read more »

Children with migraine often misdiagnosed: A migraine often fails to be correctly diagnosed in pediatric patients. These patients are not the typical migraine sufferers, but migraines can also occur in...read more »

Undiagnosed anxiety disorders related to depression: Patients with depression (see symptoms of depression) may also have undiagnosed anxiety disorders (see symptoms of anxiety disorders). Failure to diagnose...read more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see symptoms of multiple...read more »

Alzheimer's Disease: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Alzheimer's Disease

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Alzheimer's Disease:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Alzheimer's Disease, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Alzheimer's Disease: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Alzheimer's Disease

Medical research articles related to Alzheimer's Disease include:

Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database

Alzheimer's Disease: Animations

Prognosis for Alzheimer's Disease

Prognosis for Alzheimer's Disease: Poor. Progressive deterioration from 5-20 years.

Research about Alzheimer's Disease

Visit our research pages for current research about Alzheimer's Disease treatments.

Clinical Trials for Alzheimer's Disease

The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Alzheimer's Disease include:

Statistics for Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease: Broader Related Topics

Alzheimer's Disease Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Alzheimer's Disease, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Alzheimer's Disease

NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page: NINDS (Excerpt)

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease characterized by memory loss, language deterioration, impaired visuospatial skills, poor judgment, indifferent attitude, but preserved motor function. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page: NINDS)

Alzheimer's Disease: NWHIC (Excerpt)

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in older people. A dementia is a medical condition that disrupts the way the brain works. AD affects the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. Every day, scientists learn more about AD, but right now the cause or causes of the disease are still unknown, and there is no known cure. An estimated 4 million people in the U.S. suffer from AD. (Source: excerpt from Alzheimer's Disease: NWHIC)

Clinical Trials Alzheimer''s Disease and Related Disorders: NIMH (Excerpt)

ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE (AD) is an age-related and irreversible brain disorder that occurs gradually and results in memory loss, behavior and personality changes, and a decline in thinking abilities. These losses are related to the breakdown of the connections between nerve cells in the brain and the eventual death of many of these cells. (Source: excerpt from Clinical Trials Alzheimer''s Disease and Related Disorders: NIMH)

Definitions of Alzheimer's Disease:

A degenerative disease of the BRAIN characterized by the insidious onset of DEMENTIA. Impairment of MEMORY, judgment, attention span, and problem solving skills are followed by severe APRAXIAS and a global loss of cognitive abilities. The condition primarily occurs after age 60, and is marked pathologically by severe cortical atrophy and the triad of SENILE PLAQUES; NEUROFIBRILLARY TANGLES; and NEUROPIL THREADS. (From Adams et al., Principles of Neurology, 6th ed, pp1049-57) - (Source - Diseases Database)

A progressive form of presenile dementia that is similar to senile dementia except that it usually starts in the 40s or 50s; first symptoms are impaired memory which is followed by impaired thought and speech and finally complete helplessness - (Source - WordNet 2.1)

 

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