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Alzheimer's Disease

Prognosis of Alzheimer's Disease

07/30/2004

Question:

What is the prognosis of alzheimer`s disease?

Answer:

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a chronic and slowly progressive disease, meaning it cannot be cured, and gets worse over time. The disease causes brain cells to die. As a result of brain cell loss, a person's memory and thinking gets worse over time, as well as their ability to do everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning, and self care. The changes occur slowly, usually over 8-10 years. We do not have a cure for AD, but there are several medications that can slow down the progression including Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl, and a new medication called Namenda. Each person responds differently to the medications, but in general, the medications slow down the cell loss and help a person function better for a longer time. Consultation with a doctor is necessary to determine the best medication for a given individual.

As the disease progresses the cell loss in the brain becomes so extensive that a person can no longer walk or talk. In the latest stages, it damages the parts of the brain that control breathing, swallowing, and the ability of the body to fight off infections leading to complications such as pneumonia. AD is a very difficult disease for both the person affected and the families. There is a staggering amount of research underway to continue the search for better treatments for individuals with AD, with great hope that new discoveries will continue to emerge.

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Response by:

Paula K Ogrocki, PhD Paula K Ogrocki, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University