Definition and Causes
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and fatal brain disorder. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, the general
term for loss of memory and thinking capacity. Named for German physician Alois Alzheimer, who first described the disease
in 1906, it is the seventh leading cause of death in the US, killing nearly 75,000 a year and afflicting 5.3 million.
Alzheimer’s is caused by a buildup of protein plaques and tangles that slowly destroy brain cells and tissues. The disease
progresses in three stages:
1. Preclinical: Imperceptible changes in the brain, without significant clinical symptoms.
2. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): Measurable problems with memory, without compromising independence.
3. Alzheimer’s Dementia: Further decline in cognition, affecting language, vision/spatial conception, and
reasoning or judgment.
Alzheimer’s is a disease of aging, almost exclusively affecting people over 65 years old. Other risk
factors include family history, head injury, cardiovascular disease, and poor general health and lifestyle choices.
Vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease, is caused by impaired blood flow to
Learn about vascular dementia »
Hyperbaric Oxygen Approval Status
Treatment with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has not been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s or other age-related dementias.
Some physicians and families claim HBOT helps manage Alzheimer's symptoms and improve activities of daily living by increasing
the circulation of oxygenated blood to functioning areas of the brain, but these palliative effects do not last.
Alzheimer’s presents a nonvascular and seemingly irreversible mechanism of brain cell death and tissue loss. The biologic
mechanism of age-related dementias differs greatly from
and also from
acute traumatic ischemias,
two conditions for which hyperbaric oxygen is FDA-cleared to fight infection and aid in healing healthy brain tissue. Weak evidence
from primary research and clinical trials does not support the use of hyperbaric oxygen for Alzheimer’s disease. Patients
and families should be wary of bolder claims.
HyperbaricLink recommends the following websites for anyone seeking authoritative information, patient advocacy, and community
support for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
The Alzheimer's Association is the leading, global voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care and support, and the
largest private, nonprofit funder of Alzheimer's research. The association’s
provides an excellent resource for people living with Alzheimer’s.
The US Congress created ADEAR to compile, archive, and disseminate information about Alzheimer's disease for health
professionals, people affected by Alzheimer’s, and the public. The center provides reliable information and support via
excellent web, telephone, and print communications.
The Alzheimer’s entry in Wikipedia provides quite thorough information about the mechanisms, causes, diagnosis, management,
and impact of the disease, with plenty of helpful images and illustrations.
- Amyloid-β protein
- Amyloid plaques
- Cognitive functioning
- Cognitive impairments
- Functional impairments
- Neurofibrillary tangles
- Tau protein
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
HyperbaricLink suggests the
Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet
from the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center.
NIH Publication 11-6423, July 2011