Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurological brain disorder named
for the German physician, Alois Alzheimer, who first described it in 1906. AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the United
States, and is the only cause of death in the top ten that is unpreventable. AD is a form of dementia that causes problems
with memory, thinking and behavior. These problems are triggered by the development of abnormal tissue and protein deposits,
called plaques and tangles, in the brain.
Alzheimer’s symptoms typically progress gradually but eventually
become severe enough to affect a person’s ability to perform daily tasks. Alzheimer’s disease generally runs is
course over a period of 10 to 15 years, although survival can range from 4-20 years depending on a person’s age and
other health conditions.
Dementia is a general term describing a group of disorders that impairs
mental functioning and manifests as memory loss and other cerebral difficulties serious enough to negatively impact a person’s
ability to accomplish tasks necessary for daily life. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia,
accounting for over 50% of dementia cases.
Although most individuals with AD are 65 or older, Alzheimer’s
is not to be considered a natural function of getting older. It should also be noted that it’s not limited to the elderly.
Up to 5% of individuals with AD have early-onset Alzheimer’s, or younger-onset Alzheimer’s, which usually manifests
in a person’s 40’s or 50’s.
AD is a progressive illness causing a slow decline spanning a period
of years, and the decline is irreversible. In its early stages, memory loss is slight and is often dismissed. This is followed
by a gradual decline of memory skills and other intellectual abilities, plus changes in personality and behavior. In its later
stages, a person loses their ability to interact with their surroundings and those around them. The most common cause of death
for someone with AD is infection.
Currently, there is not a cure for AD. There are treatments that can
slow the deterioration and improve the lives of those with AD and those who care for them. Research continues worldwide.