Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia known today. The term “dementia” refers to a variety of conditions that arise from the loss of nerve cell function and/or nerve cell death in the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and other types of mixed dementia. Although all types of dementia arise from neuronal damage and/or death, each form of dementia is associated with distinct brain abnormalities and symptom patterns. Once a patient has been diagnosed with dementia, a physician must conduct further tests in order to determine the exact form of dementia that is present. Recent research indicates that many individuals, especially those of advanced age, have brain abnormalities that are associated with multiple types of dementia; this is classified as mixed dementia (cite).
AD was first identified as a form of dementia in 1906 and accounts for approximately 60-80% of all dementia cases (doi:10.1016/S0197-4580(98)00052-9 cite x2). In 2011, new criteria and guidelines for diagnosing AD were proposed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Alzheimer’s Association. These guidelines updated the criteria published in 1984 and defined three stages of Alzheimer’s disease: preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. The 2011 guidelines propose that AD begins before the development of symptoms, a dramatic change from the criteria set out by the 1984 guidelines.
Preclinical Alzheimer’s disease
Because current research indicates that AD related brain changes may begin 20 or more years before symptoms occur, the preclinica...
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...eneration of neurofibrils in the brain (cite).
Genetic mutation, an abnormal change that occurs within genes, is the only known cause of AD; however, this factor only accounts for less than 1% of all cases. Three known genetic mutations have been shown to cause AD. These mutations involve the genes for amyloid precursor proteins, presenilin 1 proteins, and presenilin 2 proteins (cite report). Presenilin 1 and 2 genes are involved with the survival of nerve cells in the brain and the processing of amyloid precursor proteins (cite NIH article). An individual who inherits any of these genes is guaranteed to develop AD, sometimes as early as age 30. Generally, individuals with “dominantly inherited” AD develop early-onset AD, indicating that disease symptoms develop before age 65 (cite report).
Prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease
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