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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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What is Alzheimers disease?
April 2000

Q. What is Alzheimers disease?

A. Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia (generally speaking, a decrease in one's mental abilities). The frequency of most dementia's, including Alzheimer's disease, increase with age. There are several warning signs for Alzheimer's disease. It is important of emphasize that these are warning signs...they don't make the diagnosis, they simply suggest the possible diagnosis.

  1. Memory loss that affects job skills.
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
  3. Problems with language.
  4. Disorientation to time and place.
  5. Poor or decreased judgment.
  6. Problems with abstract thinking.
  7. Misplacing things.
  8. Changes in mood or behavior.
  9. Changes in personality.
  10. Loss of initiative.
There are an increasing number of treatments available. The mainstay is behavioral treatments, including actions to help protect the person with decreasing mental faculties. In addition, there are some pharmacologic treatments (both prescription and non-prescription), but these have limited effects, and not all patients will respond. The Alzheimer's Association has an excellent web page for patients, caregivers, and providers at http://www.alz.org/.

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