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What is Alzheimer's?
AD is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist. In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer described changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. He found abnormal deposits (now called senile or neuritic plaques) and tangled bundles of nerve fibers (now called neurofibrillary tangles). These plaques and tangles in the brain have come to be characteristic brain changes due to AD.
It is estimated that currently 4 million people in the United States may have Alzheimer's disease. The disease usually begins after age 65 and risk of AD goes up with age. While younger people may have AD, it is much less common. About 3% of men and women ages 65-74 have AD and nearly half of those over age 85 could have the disease.
No definitive test to diagnose Alzheimer's disease in living patients exits. However, in specialized research facilities, neurologists now can diagnose AD with up to 90% accuracy. The following is some of the information used to make this diagnosis:
Research for Possible Risk Factors
Scientists are trying to learn what causes AD and how to prevent it. This list may not be all inclusive or definite. However, research has lead scientists to consider these as possible risk factors:
The only known risk factors are age and family history. Serious head injury and lower levels of education may also be risk factors. AD is probably not caused by any one factor. Most likely, it is several factors together that react differently in each person. Unfortunately, no blood or urine test currently exists that can detect or predict AD.
Alzheimer's disease advances in stages, ranging from mild forgetfulness to severe dementia. The course of the disease and the rate of decline varies from person to person. The duration from onset of symptoms to death can be from 5 to 20 years.
Currently, there is no effective treatment for AD that can halt the progression. However, some experimental drugs have shown promise in easing symptoms in some patients. Medications can help control behavioral symptoms; making patients more comfortable and easier to manage for caregivers. Still other research efforts focus on alternative care programs that provide relief to the caregiver and support for the patient.
For More Information:
Contact your local Mental Health Association, community mental health center, or:
Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center
What is Multi-Infarct Dementia?
Causes Of Multi-Infarct Dementia
Who is Affected?
Multi-infarct dementia is often a result of a series of small strokes, called ministrokes or TIAs (transient ischmic attacks). The symptoms of a TIA often are very slight. They may include:
The symptoms generally do not last for more than a few days. Several TIAs may occur before the person notices any symptoms of multi-infarct dementia. People with muti-infarct dementia may improve for short periods, then decline upon having further strokes.
To look for signs of stroke, the doctor will check for weakness or numbness in the arms or legs, difficulty with speech, or dizziness. To check for other health problems that could cause symptoms of dementia, the doctor may order office or laboratory tests. Tests may include:
Both CT scans and MRI tests take pictures of sections of the brain. The pictures are then displayed on a computer screen to allow the doctor to see inside the brain. (CT scans and MRI tests are painless and do not require surgery.) In addition, the doctor may send the patient to a psychologist or psychiatrist to test reasoning, learning ability, memory, and attention span.
Doctors sometimes prescribe aspirin or other drugs to prevent clots from forming in the small blood vessels. Drugs also can be prescribed to relieve restlessness or depression or to help the patient sleep better. Sometimes doctors recommend a surgery known as carotid endartectomy. This surgery is done to remove blockage in the carotid artery, the main blood vessel to the brain. Studies are under way to see how well this surgery works in treating patients with mult-infarct dementia. Some scientists are also studying drugs that increase the flow of blood to the brain.
Helping Someone with Multi-Infarct Dementia
For More Information:
National Mental Health Association
Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
Eldercare Locator Service
National Institute of Neurological
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