Memory Loss Can Be Curable
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," said Waldemar.
"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 day-to-day function".
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 diet.
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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