At Medical News Today, hardly a day goes by without coming across a study about Alzheimer’s disease. There is no doubt that scientists across the world are working hard to find ways to prevent, treat and cure this debilitating condition, which affects almost 36 million people globally. But are they making any progress? We investigate.
First described in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for around 60-80% of cases. It is characterized by problems with memory, thinking and behavior.
Onset is most common in individuals aged 65 and over, although people in their 40s and 50s can develop what is classed as early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning memory loss is mild in the beginning, but it worsens over time to the extent that individuals are unable to have conversations or respond to their surroundings.
There are treatments that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Alzheimer’s. For example, cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine can help treat memory and thinking problems. But these drugs just help manage the symptoms; there is currently no cure for the disease.
In the US, around 5 million people aged 65 and over are living with Alzheimer’s, the majority of whom are women. This number is expected to almost triple to 16 million by 2050. Figures are similar worldwide; by 2050, more than 115 million people are expected to have the disease.
Current Alzheimer’s prevalence in the US makes it the 6th leading cause of death, killing more than half a million seniors every year. To put this in perspective, Alzheimer’s disease currently kills more people each year than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.