Between 50 and 70 percent of all people with dementia are suffering from Alzheimer's disease - a degenerative disease, which slowly and progressively destroys brain cells. It is named after Aloïs Alzheimer, a German neurologist, who in 1907 first described the symptoms as well as the neuropathological features of Alzheimer's disease such as plaques and tangles in the brain . The disease affects memory and mental functioning (e.g. thinking and speaking, etc.), but can also lead to other problems such as confusion, changes of mood and disorientation in time and space. At first the symptoms such as difficulty with memory and loss of intellectual abilities may be so slight that they go unnoticed, both by the person concerned and his or her family and friends. However, as the disease progresses, the symptoms become more and more noticeable and start to interfere with routine work and social activities. Practical difficulties with daily tasks such as dressing, washing and going to the toilet gradually become so severe that in time the person becomes totally dependent on others. Alzheimer's disease is neither infectious nor contagious. It is a terminal illness, which causes a general deterioration in health. However, the most common cause of death is pneumonia, because as the disease progresses the immune system deteriorates and there is weight loss, which increases the risk of throat and lung infections. In the past, the term Alzheimer's disease tended to be used to refer to a form of pre-senile dementia as opposed to senile dementia . However, there is now a greater understanding that the disease affects people both under and over 65 years of age. Consequently, the disease is now often referred to as pre-senile or senile dementia of the Alzheimer type depending on the age of the person concerned.
Last Updated: Monday 12 July 2010