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Alzheimer’s Disease Information : Facts and Fiction

What exactly is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive memory loss, poor judgment, language deterioration, and impaired visuospatial skills. Alzheimer’s disease usually begins after the age of 65, but may occur as early as (early onset type) 40 years old. It usually begins with minor impairment in short-term memory with such experiences as frequently losing keys, and eventually progresses to include severe short-term and long-term memory loss, as well as affecting most other areas of an individual’s cognitive functioning. Alzheimer’s disease eventually destroys cognition, personality and ability to function. In the earliest stages it may be difficult to differentiate from normal aging, but as it progresses it totally destroys an individual's ability to function.

How would an individual get Alzheimer’s?

There continues to be extensive research in this area to determine how individuals contract the disease. Current research indicates that there are two main categories associated with the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease, including the familial and sporadic. Familial Alzheimer’s disease is a genetic form which is transmitted from one generation to the next. Approximately 5 % of all cases of Alzheimer’s disease have been associated with a genetic component. These individuals frequently come from families where as many as half of the family members may develop the disease. This form of the disorder is rare, however. The remaining 95 % of Alzheimer’s disease cases are sporadic, randomly occurring in the population. At the present time, particular dietary habits, professional occupations and specific personality types do not appear to lead the development of the disease.


Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and prognosis:

Early-stage Alzheimer’s symptoms can also be very similar to those which result from fatigue, illness, vision or hearing loss, grief, depression or the use of alcohol and various medications. However, Alzheimer’s symptoms become progressively worse over time, eventually destroying short-term memory, concentration, long-term memory, judgment and personality. The primary symptoms include multiple cognitive deficits manifested by memory impairment and other cognitive disturbances, including language disturbances, impaired ability to carry out motor (physical) activities despite intact motor function, failure to recognize and identify simple objects and disturbances in executive functioning. The cognitive deficits must cause significant impairment in social or occupational functioning and represent a significant decline from previous functioning.

Alzheimer’s disease is progressive in nature, but its course may vary from individual to individual. Some individuals may have it for as little as and the last five years of their life, while others may have it for as many as 20 years. The most common cause of death in Alzheimer’s patients is infection.

Treatment :

Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and no sure way to limit its progression. Some people in the early to middle stages of the disease, find medications such as tacrine (Cognex), Aricept (donezepil) and Exelon (rivastigmine) slow the progression. Other medications are used to control the behavioral symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease such as aggression, sleeplessness, wandering, and anxiety. Also, frequently environmental and behavioral modification are effective in reducing the effects of an over-stimulating environment, along with basic behavioral modification techniques to improve specific behaviors.

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic  Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist  (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

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