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About Alzheimer's Disease

There are a considerable number of phrases and expressions bandied around regarding Alzheimer's disease and the possible causes of this memory inflicting pathology.

First, consider this fact, that all Alzheimer's sufferers are experiencing some degree of memory loss. In the very beginning, physicians describe the early phases of memory loss as "mild cognitive impairment" or MCI. During this period of memory impairment, the individual can still manage their own affairs and perform all the activities of daily living that we so often take for granted.

As an individual's memory loss declines further, physicians may offer a series of cognitive tests such as the Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE) which will apply a score that rate's a person's memory on a scale from zero to thirty. Depending upon the results of this test, an individual with memory concerns may be described as an MCI patient or be considered as someone in the early stages of a more serious disorder such as Alzheimer's disease.

Causes of Memory Loss

At this juncture, an in-depth series of diagnostic tests are required to determine if one's memory loss is indeed due to Alzheimer's or due to other conditions. Some of these conditions are misuse of over the counter and prescription medications, Parkinson's disease, head trauma, diabetes, strokes, Lewy Body Syndrome, Frontal Temporal disease, depression and many other disorders affecting one's memory. Alzheimer's however, is the root cause of serious memory loss in the majority of such individuals.

Some of the diagnostic tests that are administered may include a MRI to determine brain size or the presence of a preexisting stroke, a lumbar puncture to determine the amount of certain specific proteins in the spinal fluid called amyloid and tau. An Amyvid PET Scan may sometimes be suggested to determine the presence of the amyloid protein in the brain.

As high as thirty percent of all patients who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease may be incorrect. Using a combination of the diagnostic studies described above can significantly improve the error margin. The downside of an incorrect diagnosis could significantly affect patient management in regards to medications and overall medical outcomes.

Standard of Care Options

Once the diagnosis is confirmed there are treatment options to consider:
There are four FDA approved medications solely indicated for Alzheimer's disease. They are Aricept®, Exelon®, Namenda®, and Razadyne®.

In addition to taking FDA approved Alzheimer's Disease medications, there are Clinical Trials and Studies available for interested individuals. All such clinical trials can be found at the governmental website www.clinicaltrials.gov. All such studies are conducted with the highest degree of confidentiality and there are never any costs to participate.

Alzheimer's disease Education & Referral (ADEAR) Center, A Service of the National Institute on Aging, has a fact sheet entitled Participating in Alzheimer's disease Clinical Trials and Studies. It is NIH Publication No. 09-7484 and can be accessed at on their Fact Sheet.

This document details many of the considerations, rights, and privileges of anyone considering enrolling in an FDA approved clinical trial researching the effect of a test medication for Alzheimer's disease.

Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

  • Repeat questions
  • Misplace possessions
  • Are at a loss for words
  • Forget recent events, conversations and names of friends or relatives
  • Confused sense of direction and time and become lost in familiar places
  • Have difficulty performing chores or using appliances and tools
  • Have difficulty handling finances
  • Show changes in mood and/or personality