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Alzheimer's Disease

Also called: SDAT, Senile Dementia Alzheimer's Type

- Summary
- About Alzheimer's disease
- Stages of Alzheimer's
- Risk factors and causes
- Signs and symptoms
- Diagnosis methods
- Treatment options
- Prevention methods
- Lifestyle considerations
- Ongoing research
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Andrew Biondo, D.O.
Gary D. Stein, Ph.D.

Summary

Alzheimer's disease the most common cause of dementia among people over the age of 65, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Alzheimer's disease is not a normal sign of aging. It is a progressive neurological disease.

Little is understood about what causes Alzheimer's disease and what can be done to prevent or cure it. The best known aspects of the disease are the symptoms of dementia it produces and the characteristic changes seen in the brains of patients after death. The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease occur when neurons (nerve cells) in the brain die or break connections with other neuronsAlzheimer's Disease is a common form of dementia that often involves memory loss and confusion.. Also, people with Alzheimer's disease have protein deposits in and around the neurons called beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which are thought to disrupt the function of the neurons. However, these plaques and tangles can only be identified during an autopsy and their role in the development of the disease or its symptoms is not understood.  

Age is by far the most significant risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Other risk factors include a family history of the disease and a history of severe head trauma.

The signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are usually divided into two categories: cognitive (intellectual) and psychiatric. Cognitive signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include:

  • Loss of memory
  • Loss of language skills
  • Loss of motor function
  • Loss of ability to recognize familiar things

Examples of psychiatric symptoms, which are not necessary for diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, include:

  • Personality changes
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

Alzheimer's disease is usually diagnosed by a physician observing patients’ symptoms and ruling out other possible causes of dementia. In many cases, a mental status examination may be conducted. There is no single diagnostic test for Alzheimer's disease. There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, although there are medications that can be prescribed to ease or stabilize the symptoms.

 

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Review Date: 09-29-2008
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