Alzheimer's at 100
A century ago, Alois Alzheimer first described his eponymous condition. Bushra A Khawaja and Basil H Ridha look at how our understanding has since changed
Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, characterised clinically by progressive global cognitive decline. It is the commonest cause of dementia (85% of all causes), affecting several cognitive domains and results in considerable physical and psychosocial distress to patients, their carers, and society as a whole.
The prevalence of Alzheimer's disease increases exponentially with age, and the number of affected people is projected to increase to 9.9 million by 2040, as the ageing population grows.1
The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease were first described in the early 1900s by Emil Kraepelin, a German psychiatrist, who postulated that a specific brain pathology underlies each of the major psychiatric disorders. The neuropathological features were later described by Alois Alzheimer, another German psychiatrist, who worked in Kraepelin's laboratory.
Alzheimer, who had an interest in neuropathology, did an autopsy on the brain of a woman who died in 1906, aged 51 years, with a five year