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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: 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, bovine ...more misdiagnosis »

Home Diagnostic Testing and Alzheimer's disease

Home medical tests possibly related to Alzheimer's disease:

Alzheimer's disease: Symptom Checker

Listed below are some combinations of symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease, as listed in our database. Visit the Symptom Checker, to add and remove symptoms and research your condition.

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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 ...Alzheimer's disease Treatments

Some of the possible treatments listed in sources for treatment of Alzheimer's disease may include:

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

Review further information on Alzheimer's disease Treatments.

Alternative Treatments for Alzheimer's disease

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed as possibly helpful for Alzheimer's disease may include:

Stories from Users for Alzheimer's disease

Real-life user stories relating to Alzheimer's disease:

Alzheimer's disease: Comorbid Symptoms

Some of the comorbid or associated medical symptoms for Alzheimer's disease may include these symptoms:

Causes of General Symptom Types

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Causes of Similar Symptoms to Alzheimer's disease

Research the causes of these symptoms that are similar to, or related to, the symptom Alzheimer's disease:

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 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 forgetulness symptom might be Alzheimer's, whereas there 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 medical conditions, such as a 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 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, and Parkinsons-like 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 more »

Alzheimer's disease: Research Related Doctors & Specialists

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Hospitals & Clinics: Alzheimer's disease

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Alzheimer's disease: Related Rare Diseases

Rare types of medical conditions and diseases in related medical categories:

Alzheimer's disease: Undiagnosed Conditions

Conditions that are commonly undiagnosed in related areas may include:

Article Excerpts about 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. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page: NINDS)

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)

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)

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease characterized by memory... (Source: excerpt from NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page: NINDS)

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in older people. A dementia... (Source: excerpt from Alzheimer's Disease: NWHIC)

ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE (AD) is an age-related and irreversible brain disorder that occurs... (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)

Neurodegenerative disorder of the CNS resulting in progressive loss of memory and intellectual functions; begins in the middle or later years; characterized by brain lesions such as neurofibrillary tangles and neuritic plaques.
- (Source - CRISP)

Detailed list of causes of Alzheimer's disease

The list below shows some of the causes of Alzheimer's disease mentioned in various sources:

How Common are these Causes of Alzheimer's disease?

This information refers to the general prevalence and incidence of these diseases, not to how likely they are to be the actual cause of Alzheimer's disease. Of the 2 causes of Alzheimer's disease that we have listed, we have the following prevalence/incidence information:

  • 0 causes are "very common" diseases
  • 0 causes are "common" diseases
  • 1 causes are "uncommon" diseases
  • 0 causes are "rare" diseases
  • 0 causes are "very rare" diseases
  • 1 causes have no prevalence information.

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Alzheimer's disease:

The following list of conditions have 'Alzheimer's disease' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

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Conditions listing medical complications: Alzheimer's disease:

The following list of medical conditions have Alzheimer's disease or similar listed as a medical complication in our database. The distinction between a symptom and complication is not always clear, and conditions mentioning this symptom as a complication may also be relevant. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.


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Classifications of Alzheimer's disease:

Medical Conditions associated with Alzheimer's disease:

Dementia (394 causes), Alzheimer's-like symptoms (32 causes), Mental problems (3121 causes), Behavioral symptoms (4608 causes), Brain symptoms (2787 causes), Neurological symptoms (9575 causes), Cognitive impairment (3664 causes), Nerve symptoms (9132 causes), Personality symptoms (4029 causes), Memory symptoms (523 causes), Head symptoms (10192 causes)

Symptoms related to Alzheimer's disease:

Memory loss (142 causes), Forgetfulness (342 causes), Alzheimer's disease (2 causes), Dementia (394 causes), Personality loss, Long term memory loss, Confusion (780 causes), Senility, Stress

Medical articles on signs and symptoms:

Doctor-patient articles related to symptoms and diagnosis:

These general medical articles may be of interest:

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Alzheimer's disease

Medical research papers related to Alzheimer's disease include:

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Related medical articles from our Disease Center for Alzheimer's Disease:

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