Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 50-60% of all cases.
It is a progressive neurological condition characterised by the build up of proteins in the brain called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’. These proteins gradually damage and eventually destroy the nerve cells. This can make it more and more difficult to remember, reason and use language. The loss of memory of recent events may be one of the first difficulties noticed. The person may also become disorientated, be at a loss for a word when speaking and have increasing difficulty with simple daily tasks such as using the phone, making meals or managing money.
The risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease increases with age with its prevalence rising from approximately 1% in people under 65 years old to more than 25% for those over 80 years. Although rare and more commonly associated with older age, Alzheimer’s disease can also occur in people under 65.
There is currently no known cause for Alzheimer’s disease and there is no cure for the condition.
Drugs have been developed that, in some cases, temporarily alleviate some of the symptoms in the early and middle stages. These drugs are Aricept (donepezil hydrochloride) Exelon (rivastigmine) and Reminyl (galantime). There is also a drug for the middle to late stages of the condition called Exiba (memantine). For some people these drugs may stabilise some of the symptoms for a limited period of time.
None of these drugs will cure the condition, although research is continuing into developing treatments, drugs and vaccines.