Myths & Facts About Alzheimer's Disease
The many myths, stigmas and fears associated with Alzheimer's disease are some of the reasons why people may not get the help they need or may wait to talk about what they're experiencing.
As researchers and healthcare providers strive to better understand and treat Alzheimer’s disease, there is a general understanding that the disease should be viewed as a continuum – from early to advanced stages.1,5
While the rate at which the disease progresses varies, subtle changes in the brain may begin to occur as early as 10-20 years before symptoms appear.6 Once symptoms appear, the disease then continues to advance over time in different ways for each person.1,6
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disease, and symptoms may gradually worsen over time.1
Because the early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease may be subtle, many people and their families may mistake these early signs for normal aging and put off speaking with their healthcare provider.
As the disease progresses and evolves into a more advanced stage, symptoms become more obvious and harder to ignore.1
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for 60%-80% of all cases of dementia.7
Dementia is not a specific disease, rather an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills that reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities.5
While there is no way to reverse Alzheimer's disease, some other forms of dementia may be reversibile or temporary.5
Early Alzheimer's disease is the point when the initial symptoms of the disease appear.1,8 A person may experience difficulties finding the right word, remembering names, concentrating and fulfilling everyday tasks, like making change at the grocery store.1,2,10 With early Alzheimer's disease, friends and family may begin to notice difficulties in the person's daily life.1 For example, you may not be able to remember turning off the stove or closing the door.1,2,10
In contrast, early-onset Alzheimer's disease, also known as younger-onset Alzheimer's disease, is diagnosed when symptoms of dementia occur before the age of 65.9 While less common, early-onset Alzheimer's disease affects those in their 40s and 50s and can manifest at any stage of the disease — mild, moderate or severe.8
As people age, it's not uncommon to have occasional memory challenges, such as losing things from time to time and confusing which word to use.
However, Alzheimer's disease is more than occasional memory loss. It is a progressive neurological illness that results in the loss of brain cells and function over time.5,10
When this happens, an individual may forget the name of a longtime friend or what roads to take to return to a home they have lived in for decades.2
There are more than 225 Alzheimer's disease and dementia clinical studies taking place across the country (www.clinicaltrials.gov).11 These clinical studies are enrolling people with various stages of Alzheimer's disease.8 It's important to work with your healthcare provider to ask questions and understand if a clinical study may be right for you.
Clinical research and investigational studies are the only way new treatments can be tested and their efficacy and safety determined.8 Participating in a clinical study contributes to the understanding of Alzheimer's disease and has the potential to benefit patients around the world.8
Researchers continue to look for treatments to alter the course of Alzheimer's disease and potentially improve the quality of life for people living with the disease.12
The ongoing Alzheimer's disease research is extensive with the goal of better understanding and finding better ways to treat the disease.1 There are a number of currently enrolling studies investigating potential new treatments in various stages of Alzheimer's disease.1 More information about these studies can be accessed on www.clinicaltrials.gov.
Some studies are investigating ways to delay the onset of severe or more advanced Alzheimer's disease symptoms.1 Others are exploring whether or not new treatments can prevent disease symptoms from developing.1 There are also available and investigational treatments that may temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms for some patients.9
Biogen is actively involved in this research community in the hopes of discovering medicines that can potentially impact Alzheimer's disease and its progression. If you're interested in learning more about their ongoing clinical research studies in early Alzheimer's disease, this brief online screener may be a helpful next step.
- Alzheimer's Association. What Is Alzheimer's? Available at http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp. Accessed August 8, 2016.
- Alzheimer's Association. Know The 10 Signs. Available at http://alz.org/10-signs-symptoms-alzheimers-dementia.asp. Accessed August 8, 2016.
- Alzheimer's Association. Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia. Available at http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_diagnosis.asp. Accessed August 8, 2016.
- National Institute of Health. National Institute on Aging. About Alzheimer's Disease: Symptoms. https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/symptoms. Accessed August 8, 2016.
- National Institute of Health. National Institute on Aging. About Alzheimer's Disease: Alzheimer's Basics. Available at https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/alzheimers-basics. Accessed August 8, 2016.
- National Institute of Health. National Institute on Aging. Alzheimer's Disease: Unraveling the Mystery. Available at https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/part-2-what-happens-brain-ad/changing-brain-ad#other-early-signs. Accessed August 8, 2016.
- Alzheimer's Association. What We Know Today About Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia. Available at http://www.alz.org/research/science/alzheimers_research.asp. Accessed August 8, 2016.
- Alzheimer's Association. Stages of Alzheimer's. Available at http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_stages_of_alzheimers.asp. Accessed August 8, 2016.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Available at http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/nervous_system_disorders/early-onset_alzheimers_disease_134,63/. Accessed August 8, 2016.
- Alzheimer's Association. Alzheimer’s Myths. Available at http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_myths_about_alzheimers.asp. Accessed August 8, 2016.
- Alzheimer's Association. Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Trials – Myths vs. Facts. Available at http://www.alz.org/research/clinical_trials/myth_vs_fact.asp. Accessed August 8, 2016.
- Alzheimer's Association. Current Treatments. http://www.alz.org/research/science/alzheimers_disease_treatments.asp. Accessed August 8, 2016.