Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting around 417,000 people in the UK. The term 'dementia' is used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by specific diseases and conditions. This factsheet outlines the symptoms and risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, and describes what treatments are currently available.
Alzheimer's disease, first described by the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer, is a physical disease affecting the brain. During the course of the disease, 'plaques' and 'tangles' develop in the structure of the brain, leading to the death of brain cells. People with Alzheimer's also have a shortage of some important chemicals in their brains. These chemicals are involved with the transmission of messages within the brain.
Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, which means that gradually, over time, more parts of the brain are damaged. As this happens, the symptoms become more severe.