The Outlook for Alzheimer's

When it comes to Alzheimers disease, the good news is that the last few decades have seen an explosion in fundamental scientific knowledge about what causes Alzheimers and what happens as the disease progresses. Progress has been made on a number of fronts, according to the Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center:

Diagnosis. There is currently no definite way to diagnose Alzheimers disease therefore doctors ask questions about a persons overall health, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality. They also conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language skills in addition to medical tests, such as tests of blood, urine, or spinal fluid. Neuro-imaging using MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) scans to learn when and where in the brain changes occur as memory problems develop are still primarily research tools but one day they may be used more commonly to help physicians diagnose at very early stages.

Prevention. Risk factors such as age and genetic profile cant be controlled but scientists are studying whether physical activity, dietary factors such as antioxidants, and damage to the vascular system impact onset of the disease.

Treatment. While a cure still has not been developed, current treatments focus on helping people maintain mental function, managing behavioral symptoms, and slowing the disease. There are four USDA approved four medications - donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), or galantamine (Razadyne) are typically used to help maintain cognitive abilities and help control behavioral symptoms for people in mild to moderate stages of the disease. Memantine (Namenda) is used to treat moderate to severe stages.

Cure. The first clinical trial of an Alzheimers vaccine was halted because of serious safety problems. Current treatments focus on several different issues, including helping people maintain mental function, managing behavioral symptoms, and slowing the progression of the disease.