Is there a cure for Alzheimer's? As of yet, the answer is no, but there is a lot of research being funded by groups such as the Alzheimer's Association in hopes of finding a cure. Hope remains that in the coming years, improvements in care and treatment along with an eventual cure will eliminate this disease. Progress has already been made in unraveling the enigma of this disease, including what happens in the brain and what causes it as the disease progresses. Worldwide, pharmaceutical companies and scientists are racing to develop treatments that deal with the underlying disease processes, several of which may be able to solve the puzzle that is Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's disease, a progressive deterioration of the brain, was first described by the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer in 1907. It most commonly affects older adults but has been diagnosed in people in their late twenties. This disease, which affects cells in the area of the brain that are important to memory, is the most common type of dementia or mind-altering illness. People suffering from Alzheimer's disease experience problems with communicating, thinking, reasoning and learning. These problems are severe enough to present difficulties with the individual's social activities, family life and work.
Currently, there are as many as 5 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer's disease, making it the most common neurodegenerative disease. This number is expected to rise to as many as 16 million by the year 2050. Every 71 seconds a new patient is diagnosed with this disease, making it the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 12 million individuals worldwide suffer from Alzheimer's. Each year, the direct and indirect cost of caring for Alzheimer's patients in the United States is more than $100 million. Due to longer life spans, Alzheimer's is emerging to possibly become the largest medical problem facing the elderly population in the 21st century.
Knowing the ten warning signs of Alzheimer's disease can go a long way in getting an early diagnoses and receiving treatment. Early detection is the key to recovery. The warning signs are:
Difficulties in completing simple tasks
Changes in memory that affect one's daily routine
Changes in mood and personality
Trouble with planning and organizing
Misplacing important items and forgetting what your last steps were
Loss of good judgment
Difficulties understanding sights and sounds
Assuming a loner or hermit-like lifestyle
Presently, there are a number of medications and treatments that can help with aggression, depression, sleep disturbances and other behavioral problems. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved five medications that may briefly relieve some of the symptoms. These medications are:
Galantamine (Razadyne which replaced the trade name Reminyl in June 2005)
Help is also accessible to enrich the lives of sufferers as well as to preserve the patient's cognitive function over the short term. Although there are medications available to help relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer's, research has shown that mental exercises can reduce the decline in mental acuity and memory loss. Some of these preventative steps include:
Learning new skills
Playing mind sharpening puzzles and games
Meeting new people
Reading thought provoking books
Placing oneself in new social situations
While there is presently no cure for Alzheimer's disease, perhaps one day in the near future a cure will emerge. Until then, education and support is available to those who serve as caregivers for those with Alzheimer's.