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Articles » NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page: NINDS

NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page: NINDS

Article title: NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page: NINDS

Conditions: Alzheimer's Disease

What is Alzheimer's Disease?
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. AD usually begins after age 65, however, its onset may occur as early as age 40 , appearing first as memory decline and, over several years, destroying cognition, personality, and ability to function. Confusion and restlessness may also occur. The type, severity, sequence, and progression of mental changes vary widely. The early symptoms of AD, which include forgetfulness and loss of concentration, can be missed easily because they resemble natural signs of aging. Similar symptoms can also result from fatigue, grief, depression, illness, vision or hearing loss, the use of alcohol or certain medications, or simply the burden of too many details to remember at once.

Is there any treatment?
There is no cure for AD and no way to slow the progression of the disease. For some people in the early or middle stages of the disease, medication such as tacrine may alleviate some cognitive symptoms. Aricept (donepezil) and Exelon (rivastigmine) are reversible acetylcholinesterase inhibitors that are indicated for the treatment of mild to moderate dementia of the Alzheimer's type. Also, some medications may help control behavioral symptoms such as sleeplessness, agitation, wandering, anxiety, and depression. These treatments are aimed at making the patient more comfortable.

What is the prognosis?
AD is a progressive disease. The course of the disease varies from person to person. Some people have the disease only for the last 5 years of life, while others may have it for as many as 20 years. The most common cause of death in AD patients is infection.

What research is being done?
The NINDS conducts and supports research on neurodegenerative and dementing disorders, including AD. For example, although the cause of AD is still unknown, new research has shown that a vaccine, aimed at preventing or reversing the formation of AD-associated pathologic lesions, might be a useful therapy. Recent results using a transgenic mouse model suggest that immunological interventions may retard and even reverse the development of some of the pathologic changes associated with AD. Early clinical trials to test the vaccine are still in progress but offer hope for a future therapy. The National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Mental Health also support research related to AD.


Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR)
P.O. Box 8250
Silver Spring, MD 20907-8250
Tel: 301-495-3311 800-438-4380
Fax: 301-495-3334

Alzheimer's Association
919 North Michigan Avenue
Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60611-1676
Tel: 312-335-8700 800-272-3900
Fax: 312-335-1110

Family Caregiver Alliance
690 Market Street
Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94104
Tel: 415-434-3388 800-445-8106
Fax: 415-434-3508

Related NINDS Publications and Information

  • Multi-Infarct Dementia
    Multi-infarct dementia information sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Dementia With Lewy Bodies
    Dementia With Lewy Bodies information sheet compiled by NINDS, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  • Fact Sheet: Myoclonus
    Myoclonus fact sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Fact Sheet: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
    Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) fact sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • NINDS Seeks Patients With Alzheimer's Disease
    Lay-language descriptions of new program announcements and clinical trials seeking patient volunteers.

    This fact sheet is in the public domain. You may copy it.

    Provided by:
    The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    National Institutes of Health
    Bethesda, MD 20892


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