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Discussing Effective Means For Early Alzheimers Treatment

Jun 18, 2008
Did you know that you could be under 65 and still have Alzheimers Disease? Early Alzheimers affects roughly 200,000 Americans and accounts for 5-10% of all Alzheimers cases. Unlike other forms of the disease, this type generally runs in families and is linked to three separate genes.

You may choose to get pre-screened for early onset Alzheimers if you have parents or grandparents who suffered from this disease before age 65. Learning about Alzheimers is the first step toward managing its progression.

Alzheimers drug treatments aren't an option for every family that encounters early Alzheimers, whether it's for cost reasons or an adversity to artificial chemicals. In this case, support systems and group therapy are important for bolstering coping skills. It will be difficult to adjust to the new attitudes that will likely emerge.

"It's not him, it's just the disease progressing," which is what Alzheimers caregivers will have to repeatedly tell themselves. They will also need some treatment to detect other incommunicable problems -- like urinary tract infections, fevers or vision loss -- that may be manifested through odd behavior.

The US-FDA has approved two types of medication to deal with the cognitive effects of early onset Alzheimers Disease. The first type is Cholinesterase (KOH-luh-NES-ter-ays) inhibitors, which work by preventing the breakdown of the chemical messengers responsible for learning and memory.

This medication may delay worsening of symptoms for 6 to 12 months for half the people who take them. To treat Alzheimers symptoms, there are three inhibitors commonly prescribed: Galantamine (Razadyne), Rivastigmine (Exelon) and Donepezil (Aricept).

The second US-FDA approved early onset Alzheimers treatment is Memantine (Nameda), which works by regulating glutamate activity. Glutamate is a different chemical messenger involved in learning and memory and is affected more in the moderate to severe cases. Experts say that this drug helps with naming abilities and functional communication; however, they add that there is currently no significant treatment that can reverse or completely halt the degeneration.

"The longer you wait, the more impaired you become," says Stephen McConnell, senior vice president of the Alzheimer's Association. He adds that many people don't realize they have early Alzheimers before it's too late. Poor financial decisions like giving away large donations to telemarketers, is one of the first symptoms of early onset Alzheimers.

Writing checks, balancing checkbooks and basic addition may suddenly become difficult. In the early stages of Alzheimers, patients feel foggy and confused constantly, often placing items in strange locations (like keys in the icebox) and substituting odd words in sentences. While there is no cure, an early diagnosis is important because it allows the family time to discuss and plan their future before the disease progresses.
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