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Alzheimer's Disease

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder in which the brain slowly degenerates, leading to problems with memory, daily function and behavior.

Alzheimer’s disease overview

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder, in which the brain gradually degenerates. It most frequently occurs in people 65 years of age and older.

 

Over the course of the disease, areas of the brain degenerate, resulting in cellular loss and dysfunction, a gradual loss of memory, problems with reasoning or judgment, disorientation, difficulty in learning, loss of language skills and decline in the ability to perform routine tasks.2-3 These changes increasingly impact the person’s daily life, reducing their independence, until ultimately, they are entirely dependent on others.2

 

Alzheimer’s disease also has an enormous impact on those who care for an individual with Alzheimer’s disease.4 Most caregivers are close relatives who provide care in the home – a demanding and exhausting role that represents a huge emotional and physical burden.3-4

Facts about Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is one of Lundbeck’s focus disease areas, and it is the most common neurodegenerative disorder. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be broadly categorized into cognitive, functional and behavioural/psychological changes. Over the course of the disease, areas of the brain degenerate, resulting in cellular loss and dysfunction, a gradual loss of memory, problems with reasoning or judgment, disorientation, difficulty in learning, loss of language skills and decline in the ability to perform routine tasks.1-2

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disorder and occurs most frequently in people 65 years of age and older.2

Symptoms

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease emerge gradually, over a period of years, and vary from person to person.3 The first symptoms to appear are usually forgetfulness and mild confusion.3 Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be broadly categorized into cognitive, functional and behavioral/psychological changes:

 

  • Cognitive changes – impaired short-term memory (such as impaired knowledge of recent events, repeating oneself, losing items around the house, poor organization), difficulty in making decisions, reduced understanding of the concept of time and space, reduced ability to learn and problems recognizing friends and family.3, 5-6   
  • Functional changes – reduced ability to perform daily activities: difficulty handling money, travelling and self-care (eating, getting dressed, maintaining personal hygiene) as well as problems with balance and unsteady movements.3,7 Ultimately, those with Alzheimer’s disease will usually become completely dependent on caregivers.3,7
  • Behavioral/psychiatric changes – patients may also develop behavioral disturbances, which increase the burden of care. It includes withdrawal from social activities, apathy/indifference, depressed mood, anxiety, and agitation.3 Behavioral changes are particularly difficult for family and care partners to cope with, and are often the reason for patients being moved to institutional care.9
50 m

people worldwide have dementia (Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and may contribute to 60-80% of cases).3

USD 818 bn

The estimated total global societal cost of dementia, rising to USD 2 trillion by 2030.2

Epidemiology and burden

Worldwide, 50 million people have dementia.2 With the shift towards an increasingly elderly population, there are nearly 10 million of new cases every year.11 The WHO predicts that the prevalence of dementia will almost double every 20 years, and by the year 2050, 152 million people will have the condition.11

 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases.3 The total global societal cost of dementia is estimated to be USD 818 billion, rising to USD 2 trillion by 2030.11

People who are concerned that they – or their loved ones – are experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease should see their doctor for help and advice.

1.    Alzheimer’s Association. What is Alzheimer’s disease: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers.
2.    World Health Organization. Dementia fact sheet. 2020. Available at: https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia. Accessed January 2020.
3.    Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s Association Report. 2020 Alzheimer's disease facts and figures. Alzheimers Dement 2020; 16 (3): 391–460.
4.    Georges J, Jansen S, Jackson J, et al. Alzheimer’s disease in real life – the dementia carer’s survey. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 2008; 23 (5): 546–551.
5.    Joubert S, Joncas S, Barbeau E, et al. Cognition. In: Gauthier S (ed.). Clinical Diagnosis and Management of Alzheimer’s Disease, Third Edition. Oxon: Informa Healthcare, 2007.
6.    Rainville C, Caza N, Belleville S, Gilbert B. Neuropsychological assessment. In: Gauthier S (ed.). Clinical Diagnosis and Management of Alzheimer’s Disease, Third Edition. Oxon: Informa Healthcare, 2007.
7.    Sarazin M, Horne N, Dubois B. Natural decline and prognostic factors. In: Gauthier S (ed.). Clinical Diagnosis and Management of Alzheimer’s Disease, Third Edition. Oxon: Informa Healthcare, 2007.
8.    Gélinas I. Functional autonomy. In: Gauthier S (ed.). Clinical Diagnosis and Management of Alzheimer’s Disease, Third Edition. Oxon: Informa Healthcare, 2007.
9.    Teng E, Cummings JL. Behaviour. In: Gauthier S (ed.). Clinical Diagnosis and Management of Alzheimer’s Disease, Third Edition. Oxon: Informa Healthcare, 2007.
10.  Alzheimer’s Association. 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs.
11.  World Health Organization. Dementia - A public health priority. 2017. https://www.who.int/mental_health/neurology/dementia/infographic_dementia/en/.

  1. World Health Organization. Dementia fact sheet. 2020. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia. Accessed January 2020.
  2. Alzheimer’s Association. What is Alzheimer’s disease. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers.
  3. Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s Association Report. 2020 Alzheimer's disease facts and figures. Alzheimers Dement 2020; 16 (3): 391–460.

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