Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, amounting to more than half dementia sufferers.

Alzheimer's disease is caused by a loss of brain cells and deficiency of acetylcholine a chemical messenger otherwise known as neurotransmitter in the brain.


Over time, their mental abilities deteriorate, gradually progressing from increasing forgetfulness to getting confused about where they are and what day it is. The personality might disintegrate ranging from signs of increased aggression to becoming lethargic, withdrawn and starting to neglect personal hygiene.

Conversation may become repetitive and the personality may alter as people develop odd or uncharacteristic behaviours. They soon lose insight of their loss of mental faculties and it progresses till the person is reduced to a vegetative state.

Alzheimer's disease tends to progress, deteriorate and lead to death within 7 to 10 years. However, the progress of the illness varies a lot between individuals. For some, the illness may progress slowly over many years, whereas for others it may progress rapidly.

Diseases that can be confused with Alzheimer’s disease

  • Multi infarct dementia, where the blood supply to the brain is compromised and the brain cells die
  • Thyroid problems, especially underactive thyroid
  • Picks disease
  • Vitamin deficiencies especially vitamin b12 and folate
  • depression

But never assume that an old person who becomes forgetful has Alzheimer's disease. For the majority of old people, forgetfulness is simply a nuisance and most will not develop Alzheimer's disease.

Other treatable medical conditions must be excluded before a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is made.


Treatment is aimed at supporting patients and carers by providing information about the illness and highlighting potential sources of assistance. These patients are susceptible to skin infections especially bed sores and chest infections.

Depression, poor sleep, agitation and behavioural disturbance can all be helped by medicines.

Considerable research work has been devoted to Alzheimer's disease in recent years.

Please consult the online doctor for bespoke, evidence based and confidential medical advice.