A – Z of Illnesses & Conditions

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Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD): Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease which worsens as it progresses and eventually leads to death. Most often the disease is diagnosed in people over 65 years of age though it can affect people much earlier.

Although Alzheimer’s Disease develops differently for every individual, there are many common symptoms. Early symptoms are often mistakenly thought to form part of old age or manifestations of stress. In the early stages the most common symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events.

When Alzheimer’s Disease is suspected, the diagnosis is usually confirmed with tests that evaluate thinking abilities and behavior. As the disease advances symptoms can include irritability, confusion, mood swings, aggression, trouble with language, and loss of memory. As the disease progresses, patients withdraw from family and society.

Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Alzheimer’s Disease develops for an unknown and variable amount of time before becoming fully apparent. It can progress undiagnosed for years. On average, the life expectancy following diagnosis is approximately seven years. The cause and progression of Alzheimer's Disease are not well understood. Research indicates that the disease is associated with plaques and tangles in the brain.

The formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are thought to contribute to the degradation of the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain thus causing Alzheimer's Disease. Amyloid is a general term for protein fragments that the body produces normally. In a healthy brain these protein fragments are broken down and eliminated. In Alzheimer's Disease, the fragments accumulate to form hard, insoluble plaques.

If you are worried about your memory or think you may have dementia, it's a good idea to see your doctor. If you're worried about someone else, you should encourage them to make an appointment and perhaps suggest that you go along with them.

Alzheimer's Organisations
Alzheimer's Association - Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Help

Alzheimer's Society: United against dementia

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