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Alzheimer's Disease

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Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease

What is Alzheimer's Disease? The most common form of dementing illness,

Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the

brain, causing impaired memory, thinking and behavior. The person with AD may

experience confusion, personality and behavior changes, impaired judgment, and

difficulty finding words, finishing thoughts or following directions. It

eventually leaves its victims incapable of caring for themselves.

What happens to the brain in Alzheimer's Disease? In AD The nerve cells

in the part of the brain that controls memory, thinking, are damaged,

interrupting the passage of messages between cells. The cells develop

distinctive changes that are called neuritic plaques (clusters of degenerating

nerve cell ends) and neurofibrillary tangles (masses of twisted filaments which

accumulate in previously health nerve cells). The cortex (thinking center) of

the brain shrinks (atrophies), The spaces in the center of the brain become

enlarged, also reducing surface area in the brain.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease? Alzheimer's Disease is a

dementing illness which leads to loss of intellectual capacity. Symptoms usually

occur in older adults (although people in their 40s and 5Os may also be

affected) and include loss of language skills such as trouble finding words,

problems with abstract thinking, poor or decreased judgment, disorientation in

place and time, changes in mood or behavior and changes in personality. The

overall result is a noticeable decline in personal activities or work

performance.

Who is affected by Alzheimer's Disease? Alzheimer's Disease knows no

social or economic boundaries and affects men and women almost equally. The

disease strikes older persons more frequently, affecting approximately 10% of

Americans over age 65 and 47% of those over age 85.

Is Alzheimer's Disease hereditary? There is a slightly increased risk

that children, brothers, and sisters of patients with Alzheimer's Disease will

get it, but most cases are the only ones in a family. Some patients who develop

the disease in middle age (called early onset) have a "familial" type more than

one case in the family. It is important to note that AD can only be definitively

diagnosed after death through autopsy of brain tissue. Thirty percent of

autopsies turn up a different diagnosis. Families are encouraged to ask for an

autopsy as a contribution to learning more about the genetics of AD.

Are there treatments available for Alzheimer's Disease? Presently, there

is no definite cure or treatment for Alzheimer's Disease. Unfortunately, there

are many unscrupulous individuals who

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