Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms that can include memory loss, confusion, and difficulties with language. There are many different types of dementia. These occur when the brain is affected by certain diseases or conditions.
Alzheimer’s disease can cause a specific type of dementia that usually develops slowly and gets worse over time. During the disease, proteins build up in the brain to form structures called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’. This can lead to the loss of connections between nerve cells, and eventually to the loss of brain tissue. There are currently no treatments or cures for Alzheimer’s dementia.
There are an estimated 46.8 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2015 and this figure is set to rise to 131.5 million by 2050. (World Alzheimer Report 2016). Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia globally. It affects around seven million people in Europe.
Attempts to develop new therapies for treating Alzheimer’s disease have so-far been unsuccessful. It is a progressive disorder and it is well known that the signs of the disease – plaques and tangles – can be found in the brain decades before the first symptoms appear. Researchers believe that early intervention may be a more effective way to tackle the condition.