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Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in older people. Dementia is group of symptoms caused by disorders affecting brain functions such as memory, thinking, and judgment. These changes in brain function make it hard to carry out daily activities.
How AD affects daily living depends on the stage of the disease:
- In the early stages of AD, you may have trouble remembering recent events or the names of people you know.
- In the middle stages, you may forget how to do simple tasks like brushing your teeth or combing your hair. You may have problems speaking, understanding, reading, or writing.
- In later stages, you may not be able to think or remember well enough to take care of yourself. You may not have control of your emotions. Your personality might change.
- In late stages, people with AD need total care.
AD usually begins after age 60, and the risk of getting it goes up with age. In fact, nearly 1 in 2 people older than 85 have AD. But AD is not a normal part of aging. How fast AD progresses varies from person to person. On average, people with AD live from eight to 10 years after they are diagnosed. But some people may live with AD for as many as 20 years. Finding out about Alzheimer's disease early can give you and your family more time to plan for treatment and care.
The cause of AD is unknown, and no treatment can stop the disease. But some drugs might help symptoms, such as memory loss, from getting worse for a limited time. Other drugs may help people feel less worried or depressed.
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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.
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