Alheimers disease is a degenerative organic mental disease characterized by progressive brain deterioration and dementia; usually occurring after age 65. The diagnosis is made on clinical grounds after ruling out treatable disorders with similar characteristics.
The exact cause of Alzheimers disease is unknown. Toxic beta-amyloid deposits in neuritic plaques and arteriolar walls appear critical to pathogenesis. The beta-amyloid precursor gene is localized to chromosome 21.
Several mechanisms have been proposed, including: slow virus, metals (aluminum), acceleration in normal aging, and autoimmune attack.
Risk factors include: Aging, Head trauma, Low education level, Down syndrome, Positive family history, and Inheritance of the E4 allele of apolipoprotein E gene on chromosome 19.
Conventional lab tests are used to help rule out other causes of dementia: CBC, Chemistry panel, Thyroid function studies, Folate and B-12 levels, VDRL, Urinalysis, ECG (atrial fibrillation), and HIV antibody (in selected cases).
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