Conditions InDepth: Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic, slowly progressive, gradual in onset, irreversible condition that destroys brain nerve cells and other structures in the central nervous system. People with Alzheimer’s disease slowly develop dementia —a loss of memory and intellectual and social skills that result in confusion, disorientation, and the inability to think, reason, and understand. The decline in cognition and memory results in activities of daily living to performed with increasing difficulty. People with Alzheimer’s disease (and other dementias) have symptoms that can change from day to day, usually getting worse but occasionally seeming to get better. However, people with Alzheimer’s disease do get worse over time, especially regarding memory loss (which is the most common initial symptom).Common symptoms include:
- Difficulty with short term memory (often with maintenance of long term memories)
- Forgetting recent events and conversations
- Impaired orientation
- Misplacing items
- Poor judgment and insight
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Difficulty with cooking, dressing, shopping, finances
- Changes in behavior and mood
|Areas of the Brain Affected by Alzheimer's Disease|
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- Neurofibrillary tangles—These are found inside nerve cells in the hippocampus and temporal and frontal lobes of the brain. A type of protein called tau is found within these tangles.
- Neuritic plaques—Located outside the nerve cells, the plaques are surrounded by dying neurons (nerve cells) and contain a sticky protein called beta amyloid. The presence of the plaque seems to be linked to reduction of an important chemical called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine helps neurons relay messages in the brain and is essential for memory and learning.
Alzheimer's disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated July 11, 2012. Accessed August 22, 2012.
Alzheimer's disease medications fact sheet. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/medicationsfs.htm . Updated July 2010. Accessed August 22, 2012.
What is Alzheimer's? Alzheimer’s Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers%5Fdisease%5Fwhat%5Fis%5Falzheimers.asp . Accessed August 22, 2012.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 09/2014
- Update Date: 09/17/2014