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Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease and Atrophy of the Brain

06/07/2005

Question:

I am only 50 years old, and have been diagnosed with atrophy of the brain. I had a normal MRI in 1998, and an abnormal one in 2004(dr. said it looked like a 70-80 year old brain.) After other testing, he is now sending me to have an Alzheimer`s test and a full Dementia workup. Question: have you ever heard of someone my age having a brain like this?, If so, then what possible thing could be the cause? I am not an alcoholic, HIV, head injury problem.

Answer:

Atrophy of the brain is an MRI description, not a diagnosis. It is also quite a subjective measurement with lots of potential errors. This means that the meaning and cause of your brain atrophy is very uncertain.

It is important to know that all people will show some degree of atrophy of the brain as they age and atrophy does not necessarily mean there is something wrong.  There are many causes for atrophy of the brain that goes beyond what would be expected with aging.  Some neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or other dementias can cause atrophy of the brain. 

It is not clear from your question if you are experiencing changes in your memory and thinking. It will be very important for you to follow through with the workup your doctor has recommended to more fully determine the significance of your MRI findings.

For more information:

Go to the Alzheimer's Disease health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Paula K Ogrocki, PhD Paula K Ogrocki, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University

Peter J Whitehouse, MD, PhD Peter J Whitehouse, MD, PhD
Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University