Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that slowly and progressively destroys brain cells. As the most common form of dementia, it affects 60-65% percent of people with dementia. It is named after German neurologist Aloïs Alzheimer, who in 1907 first described the symptoms as well as the neuropathological features of the disease, such as amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain. AD affects memory and cognitive function, which may lead to confusion, changes of mood and disorientation in time and space. It is neither infectious nor contagious.
Most often, AD is diagnosed in people over 65 years of age although the less-prevalent early-onset Alzheimer's disease can occur in much younger people.
Early symptoms, such as memory issues and partial loss of certain cognitive abilities may go unnoticed at first, both by the people concerned and by their loved ones. As the disease progresses, however, the symptoms become more noticeable and can interfere with day-to-day life. Practical difficulties with daily tasks such as dressing, washing and going to the toilet gradually become more severe. Eventually, a person with AD is likely to become reliant on others for support in such tasks.
AD causes a general deterioration in health and is terminal. The most common cause of death is pneumonia, because as the disease progresses the immune system deteriorates and weight loss usually occurs, which increases the risk of throat and lung infections.
There is currently no known cure, although there is a huge amount of research being done across the globe by the scientific community.
Last Updated: Thursday 27 August 2015