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Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR)

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Locations
National Institute on Aging
Building 31, Room 5C27, 31 Center Drive, MSC 2292
Bethesda, MD 20892
United States
Ads
Phone
1-800-222-2225 / 1-800-438-4380
Contact
Email contact form
Website
http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/



Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR)

The Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center will help you find current, comprehensive Alzheimer's disease (AD) information and resources from the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks of daily living. In most people with AD, symptoms first appear after age 60.

AD is the most common cause of dementia among older people, but it is not a normal part of aging. Dementia refers to a decline in cognitive function that interferes with daily life and activities. AD starts in a region of the brain that affects recent memory, then gradually spreads to other parts of the brain. Although treatment can slow the progression of AD and help manage its symptoms in some people, currently there is no cure for this devastating disease.

AD is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor. In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer described changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. He found abnormal clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary tangles).

Today, these plaques and tangles in the brain are considered hallmarks of AD. The third main feature of AD is the gradual loss of connections between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. This loss leads to diminished cell function and cell death.

As nerve cells die throughout the brain, affected regions begin to shrink. By the final stage of AD, damage is widespread, and brain tissue has shrunk significantly.

Treatment

AD is a complex disease, and no single “magic bullet” is likely to prevent or cure it. That’s why current treatments focus on several different issues, including helping people maintain mental function, managing behavioral symptoms, and slowing AD.

AD research has developed to a point where scientists can look beyond treating symptoms to think about delaying or preventing AD by addressing the underlying disease process. Scientists are looking at many possible interventions, such as treatments for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, immunization therapy, cognitive training, changes in diet, and physical activity.

No treatment has been proven to stop AD. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved four drugs to treat AD. For people with mild or moderate AD, donepezil (Aricept®), rivastigmine (Exelon®), or galantamine (Razadyne®) may help maintain cognitive abilities and help control certain behavioral symptoms for a few months to a few years. Donepezil can be used for severe AD, too. Another drug, memantine (Namenda®), is used to treat moderate to severe AD. However, these drugs don’t stop or reverse AD and appear to help patients only for months to a few years.

These drugs work by regulating neurotransmitters, the chemicals that transmit messages between neurons. They may help maintain thinking, memory, and speaking skills and may help with certain behavioral problems.

Other medicines may ease the behavioral symptoms of AD—sleeplessness, agitation, wandering, anxiety, anger, and depression. Treating these symptoms often makes patients more comfortable and makes their care easier for caregivers.

No published study directly compares the four approved AD drugs. Because they work in a similar way, it is not expected that switching from one of these drugs to another will produce significantly different results. However, an AD patient may respond better to one drug than another.

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