Alzheimer’s Disease Overview

Alzheimer’s Disease – An Overview

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of the dementia disorders, affecting as many as 5 million Americans.  That number includes over 275,000 Arkansans.  Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease which attacks the brain and results in impaired memory, thinking, and behavior.

As with all forms of dementia, the rate of progression of the disease in persons living with Alzheimer’s varies from case to case.  From the onset of symptoms, the life span of a person living with Alzheimer’s can range anywhere from 3 to 20 or more years.  The disease eventually leaves the individual unable to care for himself/herself.

What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Disorientation to time and place
  • Poor or decreased judgment
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of initiative

How is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?

At this time, there is not a single diagnostic test that can provide a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. A qualified physician will run a series of tests to rule out a diagnosis of another form of dementia that could possibly be treated if diagnosed early enough.  The only definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease at this time is by examining the brain during autopsy.

What Treatments are Available?

The US Food and Drug Administration have approved five drugs for the treatment of symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. These drugs are:  Cognex, Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl, and Namenda.   Other medications may also be prescribed for problems frequently associated with Alzheimer’s and related dementia. These include anxiety, agitation, depression, and poor sleep.

Call Alzheimer’s Arkansas to request a more detailed fact sheet about Alzheimer’s disease.  We also have fact sheets about coping with symptoms associated with the disease.