Alzheimer's Disease

  • Medical Author: Howard Crystal, MD
  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

View Dementia Slideshow Pictures

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

People with Alzheimer's disease experience symptoms and signs in varying degrees. Some of the warning symptoms and signs include

  1. Confusion with places and time
  2. Problems completing familiar tasks
  3. Problems with spatial relations and visual images
  4. Misplacing items

Quick GuideA Caregiver's Guide to Alzheimer's Disease

A Caregiver's Guide to Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease facts

  • Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a slowly progressive disease of the brain that is characterized by symptoms like impairment of memory and eventually by disturbances in reasoning, planning, language, and perception.
  • Alzheimer's disease is by far the most common cause for dementia in the United States and in most countries in the world.
  • The likelihood of having Alzheimer's disease increases substantially after the age of 70, and it may affect around 50% of persons over the age of 85.
  • The main risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is increased age. There are also genetic and other risk factors.
  • Characteristic symptoms and stages of Alzheimer disease include
    • problems with performing familiar tasks,
    • difficulty writing or speaking,
    • loss of orientation to time and place,
    • losing or misplacing items,
    • mood or behavior changes,
    • loss of interest in daily activities, and
    • poor judgment.
  • Symptoms may be present in varying degrees of severity.
  • The cause(s) of Alzheimer's disease is (are) not known. Although, accumulation of the protein amyloid in the brain is suspected to play a role.
  • The diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease should be based on a comprehensive examination that rules out other causes of dementia.
  • There are numerous causes of dementia, so having the characteristic symptoms do not necessarily mean that a person has Alzheimer disease.
  • The treatment and management of Alzheimer's disease consists of medications and non-medication based treatments.

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a slowly progressive disease of the brain that is characterized by impairment of memory and eventually by disturbances in reasoning, planning, language, and perception. Many scientists believe that Alzheimer's disease results from an increase in the production or accumulation of a specific protein (beta-amyloid protein) in the brain that leads to nerve cell death.

The likelihood of having Alzheimer's disease increases substantially after the age of 70 and may affect around 50% of persons over the age of 85. Nonetheless, Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging and is not something that inevitably happens in later life. For example, many people live to over 100 years of age and never develop Alzheimer's disease.

What's the difference between Alzheimer's disease and dementia?

Dementia is a syndrome characterized by:

  1. impairment in memory,
  2. impairment in another area of thinking such as the ability to organize thoughts and reason, the ability to use language, or the ability to see accurately the visual world (not because of eye disease), and
  3. these impairments are severe enough to cause a decline in the patient's usual level of functioning.

Although some kinds of memory loss are normal parts of aging, the changes due to aging are not severe enough to interfere with the level of function. Although many different diseases can cause dementia, Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause for dementia in the United States and in most countries in the world.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/17/2015

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