- WASHINGTON (AFP) - Memory
problems are sometimes reversible and not necessarily due to Alzheimer's
disease or other forms of dementia, according to specialists at a convention
on Alzheimer's here.
- "Its important to realize that the appearance of
memory problems does not necessarily signal Alzheimer's disease or some
other incurable neurologic condition," said Gunhild Waldemar, director
of the Copenhagen Memory Clinic.
- A research team headed by Waldemar, who is also a professor
of neurology at Copenhagen University Hospital, conducted a 40-month study
of 785 patients complaining of memory problems and reported its conclusions
Monday at the World Alzheimer Congress 2000 here.
- "You should see a doctor if your memory fails again
and again," according to Waldemar.
- The team found only 43 percent of the patients were suffering
from Alzheimer's disease or another types of dementia. Memory loss among
20 percent of the patients stemmed from other causes that could be treated.
- Other causes of memory loss range from depression, high
blood pressure, thyroid disease or alcohol dependence syndrome, she said.
- "If the underlying cause of the memory problem is
one that can be treated, its important to identify it so therapy can begin,"
- "This is a very interesting study that underscores
the importance of recognizing the warning signs of Alzheimer's disease
and seeking an early and accurate diagnosis," she added.
- "If you have difficulty finding your way around
(going back home, walking in the neighborhood...) or "persistent difficulty
in naming (objects, streets...), these are probably the most common early
signs of Alzheimer's disease. They may not be Alzheimer, they may be the
signs of other conditions," Waldemar noted.
- The Alzheimer Society publishes a pamphlet on the ten
alert signs of the illness which emphasizes "memory loss that affects
- According to Waldemar, initial troubling signs may include
forgetting the names of close friends or relatives, placing objects in
unusual places and regularly forgetting appointments.
- Bill Thies, vice president of medical and scientific
affairs for the US Alzheimer's Association, said their research showed
the important role that family and friends can play in helping identify
memory loss problems in individuals when they arise.
- "Being aware of cognitive changes in a loved one
are important, whether it is for Alzheimer's disease or for treating a
potentially reversible condition," he said.
- The research team identified a few ways to improve some
memory problems, including anti-depressant treatment and changing a person's
- Memory loss due the degeneration of neurons caused by
Alzheimer's is not currently curable, however, treatments exist to slow
the evolution of the disease.
- In any case, an "early and accurate diagnosis is
important" because it allows victims "to get the right treatment
and early treatment," Waldmar declared.
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