What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Definition of Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder affecting over 47 million people worldwide, including more than 100,000 Quebecers. It is characterized by the progressive and irreversible loss of neurological cells (neurons).
Symptoms and progression
Although Alzheimer’s disease can affect people under the age of 65, the risk of developing the disease increases rapidly with age, particularly after 80. When the brain is affected, a long symptom-free period can extend over 10 to 15 years (preclinical period).
Thereafter, memory impairment is often the first symptom. People have difficulty situating facts in time (episodic memory), repeat themselves frequently and ask the same questions. Other cognitive losses may occur, such as the ability to organize, plan, orient and express oneself. Mood symptoms, such as depression, personality changes and behavioral disorders, may also be encountered.
Disease progression and treatment
Initially, the person remains functional, compensating with tricks and note-taking (mild cognitive impairment or minor neurocognitive impairment phase). Unfortunately, the disease progresses and interferes with the person’s autonomy (managing accounts, cooking, medication, appointments, etc.).
This stage is called dementia or major neurocognitive disorders, when the disease has a significant impact on the sufferer’s personal, professional or social functioning.
Research and potential treatments
The exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still unknown, and no cure is currently available. However, certain drugs (Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl) can act on certain symptoms and slow progression, albeit only modestly. Promising research is underway to prevent the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
To find out more about the studies currently being recruited, please contact the Alpha Clinical Research team at 418-704-1112 (Lebourgneuf) or 418-847-1112 (Val-Bélair).