Alzheimer's Disease Myths and Facts

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, and local and national organizations will be holding events and providing information about the disease and its effect on individuals and society.

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Fact: There is a lot of progress on many fronts, and the future is promising.

Many researchers are working on validating the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, developing more sensitive and specific diagnostic tools, more effective treatments, and defining lifestyle considerations that might help sustain cognitive function throughout a lifetime.

One study, says Keith L. Black, MD, Chairman and Professor, Department of Neurosurgery, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles shows promise in identifying the development of the plaques years before someone becomes symptomatic.

“We’ve developed a way to see through the eye into the retina, where you can see the plaques developing,” he says. “We’re very excited about this."

If further clinical trials are successful, this fifteen-minute, non-invasive test may eventually enable physicians to diagnose the disease early enough so that medical intervention will be more effective in slowing down disease progression and, thus, enabling people with Alzheimer’s to better function throughout their lifespan.

The Alzheimer’s Association is one organization among others that keeps a list of U.S.-based trials on its website for people with or without Alzheimer’s who wish to find out more and, perhaps, participate (www.alz.org/Trialmatch).

Another positive development is the number of resources available to people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, Alzheimer’s Disease International and other organizations raise awareness, educate, and provide support for people with the disease and their caregivers.

For more on available resources, see Beliefnet’s “Resources for People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Their Caregivers.”

The societal toll of Alzheimer’s disease is huge, not only in economic terms, but also on the emotional, physical, and relational fabric of all those affected by it. The way is not easy, the burden is great. However, many good people from lab bench to bedside are working toward a better tomorrow, and that is cause for hope.

 Follow Maureen at www.maureenpratt.com and on her Beliefnet blog.

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Maureen Pratt
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