Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a degenerative disease of the brain, resulting in memory loss, cognitive decline, and personality changes. So, the disease cannot go away or be cured. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia (loss of memory and cognitive skills). People with Alzheimer's disease first develop memory loss. As the disease progresses, memory loss worsens and problems with thinking, decision-making, reasoning, language, or perception develop. Alzheimer's is a disease with no cure, but there are ways to stop or slow its progression with medications and other therapies. These can treat symptoms and improve the quality of life.
What happens in Alzheimer’s disease?
The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are unknown. Scientists believe that Alzheimer's disease may be caused by an abnormal buildup of proteins: beta-amyloid and tau. Beta-amyloid buildup forms plaques around brain cells. Tau deposits form twisted fibers called tangles within brain cells. As these proteins accumulate in and around the brain cells, the brain starts to lose its ability to function properly, this leads to loss of brain tissue, and eventually, the brain dies. The tissue damage also causes the affected parts of the brain to shrink (atrophy).
Initially plaques and tangles damage parts of the brain that control memory, thought, and language. Later they spread and damage other parts of the brain, leading to neuronal degeneration and progressive cognitive decline.
What are the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer's disease is a slowly progressive disease and symptoms gradually worsen over time, interfering with daily life.
Characteristic symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are:
- Persistent memory loss:
- Forgetting important dates or events
- Confusion and disorientation with places (getting lost)
- Confusion with date or time of the year
- Asking for the same information repeatedly
- Losing or misplacing things
- Vagueness in everyday conversation
- Cognitive decline:
- Changes in thinking skills
- Problems with decision-making, problem-solving, and planning
- Poor judgment
- Inability to process new information and questions
- Inability to follow instructions
- Difficulty performing daily tasks
- Difficulties with recognition:
- Confusion and inability to recognize faces, places, or objects
- Difficulties with language:
- Struggle in finding the right words or names of items, places, or people
- Difficulty in speaking, reading, or writing
- Difficulties with spatial awareness and visual images:
- Difficulty judging shapes and sizes
- Trouble with depth perception
- Trouble judging distances
- Vision problems
- Behavior or personality changes:
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior
- Deterioration of social skills
- Withdrawal from social activities or work
- Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities.
- What Is Avascular Necrosis and How Does It Affect Bones?
- The Arch of the Human Foot Was Key to Upright Walking, Scientists Say
- Worried About Cataracts? Here's What You Need to Know
- FDA Issues Warning About Compounded Versions of Wegovy, Ozempic
- Sick Restaurant Workers Fuel Many Foodborne Illness Outbreaks
- More Health News »
Stages of Alzheimer's disease
The progression of Alzheimer’s disease is measured in seven stages:
- Stage I: No symptoms appear but early diagnosis is made based on family history.
- Stage II: Symptoms, such as absent-mindedness, appear.
- Stage III: Reduced memory and concentration appear.
- Stage IV: Memory loss with the inability to perform everyday tasks. Alzheimer’s is usually diagnosed at this stage and considered mild.
- Stage V: Moderate to severe symptoms appear.
- Stage VI: A person may need help with basic tasks, such as eating and wearing clothes.
- Stage VII: This is the final and severe stage of Alzheimer’s. Symptoms include:
- Severe memory loss, mood swings, and behavior changes
- Extreme confusion about time, place, and life events
- Trouble speaking or communicating
- Decreased physical functioning, such as walking, sitting, and swallowing
- Urinary and fecal incontinence
- Loss of facial expressions
- Suspicions about friends, family, or caregivers
Can Alzheimer’s disease be cured?
There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, some drugs may help delay symptoms, slow the progression of the disease, support mental function, regulate behavior, and improve the quality of life. They are:
- The following medications are used for the treatment and management of Alzheimer's disease:
- Aricept (donepezil)
- Exelon (rivastigmine)
- Reminyl (galantamine)
- Cognex (tacrine)
- Namenda (memantine)
- Eldepryl (selegiline)
- Symptoms of behavioral changes are treated with:
- Antianxiety medications
Can Alzheimer's disease be prevented?
There is no known definitive cause for Alzheimer’s disease. Hence, the disease cannot be prevented with certainty. Nonetheless, healthy lifestyle habits that promote good brain health and prevent cognitive decline include:
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Lakhan SE. Alzheimer Disease. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1134817-overview
Top Can Alzheimer’s Go Away? Related Articles
Alzheimer's QuizTake the Alzheimer's Quiz to discover some of the mysteries behind this cognitive disorder. Learn causes, symptoms, treatments, diagnosis, and little-known facts about Alzheimer's disease (AD) and the brain disorders it can mimic.
Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
Bad Brain Health HabitsGood brain health depends on exercising regularly, eating well, and getting enough sleep. Learn how to develop good health habits to protect your brain against neurodegeneration, Alzheimer's disease, and other kinds of dementia.
Dementia: Is It Aging or Alzheimer's?Learn the difference between memory problems that can happen to all of us as we get older and real warning signs of dementia.
Down SyndromeGet the facts on Down syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by an additional set of chromosomes in a developing fetus. Down syndrome signs and symptoms include distinctive facial features, growth retardation, and decreased mental function and IQ. Blood tests and ultrasound may be used to screen for Down syndrome but chromosome analysis of the fetus is needed to diagnose the condition. People with Down syndrome age more quickly and may develop Alzheimer's disease as young as age 40. Sometimes people are diagnosed with mosaic Down syndrome, in which case they have more than one type of chromosomal makeup.
piracetamPiracetam is a nootropic medication (general cognitive enhancer) used to boost cognition and memory in conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and to treat myoclonus, a condition that causes brief muscle spasms and other neurological conditions. In the United States, piracetam is not approved by the FDA and is classified as a new unapproved drug. Common side effects of piracetam include hyperactivity and muscle spasm (hyperkinesia), drowsiness (somnolence), sleeplessness (insomnia), nervousness, depression, weakness and lack of energy (asthenia), weight gain, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and rash. Do not take piracetam if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Why Do I Forget Things Easily?Forgetting things is quite common. You may forget things easily due to aging, Alzheimer's disease, stress, head injury, medications and other reasons.