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What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is the impairment or loss of mental abilities, including memory and reasoning skills.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive condition, in which the symptoms appear gradually and get worse over time. The symptoms range from subtle memory and thinking changes to eventually depending completely on others for basic day-to-day activities.

Estimates vary, but experts suggest that more than 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer's disease. Globally, it is estimated to affect approximately 35 million people. By 2050, that number is expected to triple to 115 million cases as the world population ages.

The stages of Alzheimer's disease

  • Preclinical Alzheimer’s disease is the stage of the disease in which there may be no visible changes in how a person functions and thinks. However, there may be changes in specific regions of the brain at this stage.
  • Mild Alzheimer’s disease is the early stage of the condition. Early signs are sometimes difficult to identify and are often subtle. Symptoms at this stage may include memory lapses, misplacing belongings, becoming lost, and having trouble finding the right words.
  • Moderate Alzheimer’s disease occurs later on. At this stage, affected people regularly have trouble remembering, thinking, and making decisions. Symptoms include trouble recognizing friends and family members; problems with reading, writing, and working with numbers; and restlessness and anxiety.
  • Severe Alzheimer’s disease is the final stage of the disease and involves complete dependency on other people for day-to-day living. At this stage, affected people may not be able to recognize family members or loved ones, and may find it difficult to communicate effectively.

Advances in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, recent advances in research aim to discover potential treatments that can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms and improve quality of life, as well as potential therapies that change the disease process itself. There are hundreds of potential therapies for the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease being studied in different types of clinical trials. 

You can get involved

There are opportunities for people with Alzheimer's disease and for healthy volunteers to contribute to clinical research in Alzheimer's disease and potentially change the future treatment of this life-limiting condition. Sometimes, Alzheimer's disease clinical trials require participants to have trial partners to support them during their time in the trial, so your family or friends may be able to help too.

Resources

The resources below provide further information on Alzheimer’s disease and advice on taking part in clinical research.

Can we get ahead of Alzheimer's disease

For Potential Participants

Can we get ahead of Alzheimer's disease?

Potential blood test may help doctors detect Alzheimer’s disease before the damage is done

Lack of sleep linked to Alzheimer's

For Potential Participants

Could a lack of sleep be linked to Alzheimer's disease?

Clinical trials find possible link between sleep disorders and dementia

References

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