Then, the question, "Can specialists prevent the disease in people deemed at increased risk?" arises.
The authors of a new study, from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, suggest that one drug called memantine — which is currently used to manage Alzheimer's symptoms — may actually help prevent the disease. This, however, might only happen if a person takes the drug before symptoms set in.
"Based on what we've learned so far, it is my opinion that we will never be able to cure Alzheimer's disease by treating patients once they become symptomatic," says Prof. George Bloom, of the University of Virginia, who oversaw the study.
"The best hope for conquering this disease is to first recognize patients who are at risk, and begin treating them prophylactically with new drugs and perhaps lifestyle adjustments that would reduce the rate at which the silent phase of the disease progresses," he says, adding, "Ideally, we would prevent it from starting in the first place."