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Alzheimer Disease

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There is currently no prevention or cure for Alzheimer disease (AD). People may live with AD for up to 25 years, but the average is 8 to 10 years. Treatment consists of attempting to slow the progression of the disease, easing symptoms, managing behavioral issues, and providing the affected person and caregivers with support and education. Early in the disease, those with AD may be able to live fairly normal lives with small amounts of assistance, such as memory aids and a structured environment. This is the time when the person can make plans and participate in decisions about future care.

Early diagnosis of AD may allow some people to receive moderate benefit from cholinesterase inhibitors, drugs that preserve intellectual ability by preserving the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, such as galantamine, donepezil, and rivastigmine. Whenever possible, the person's other medications are evaluated and he or she is taken off drugs that may worsen confusion, such as central nervous system depressants, antihistamines, sleeping pills, and analgesics.

Throughout the progression of AD, antidepressants and other drugs may also be used in small quantities, along with environmental modifications intended to make the home environment safer and more familiar, to moderate personality and behavioral issues such as depression, agitation, paranoia, and violence, and to make the person more comfortable.

While current research into the protective and therapeutic influences of certain substances is promising, specific agents cannot yet be recommended. They each carry their own associated risks and side effects. Further studies are needed to determine their actual effectiveness and long-term safety.

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