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Alzheimer's Disease

Information on Degenerative Diseases

05/26/2000

Question:

How closely related is Alzheimer's to Parkinson's Disease or ALS?

Answer:

The diseases mentioned are all classified as being "degenerative" -- that is, there is no obvious reason why they occur (such as tumor, or lack of blood supply, etc.) Additionally, all 3 conditions occur with aging, are limited to the central nervous system and involve loss of neurons (nerve cells). There has been a lot of work looking for common biological mechanisms that might underlie all 3 disorders. One theme is the possibility of environmental toxins. Another possibility is a susceptibility to chemicals used in nerve cell transmission, such as excess amounts of glutamate, especially in ALS. The evidence for this in AD or Parkinson's is less clear. Finally, there is evidence of genetic involvement in at least some cases of each disorder. And there can be some overlap, especially in advanced disease in symptoms (such as dementia in Parkinson's disease or ALS; some patients with AD develop Parkinsonism...)

For more information:

Go to the Alzheimer's Disease health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jon Stuckey, PhD
Formerly
Case Western Reserve University

Alan J Lerner, MD
Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University