How Is Alzheimers Disease Diagnosed
Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine whether a person who is having memory problems has Alzheimers disease.
To diagnose Alzheimers, doctors may:
- Ask the person and a family member or friend questions about overall health, use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality.
- Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
- Carry out standard medical tests, such as blood and urine tests, to identify other possible causes of the problem.
- Perform brain scans, such as computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , or positron emission tomography , to support an Alzheimers diagnosis or to rule out other possible causes for symptoms.
These tests may be repeated to give doctors information about how the persons memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time.
People with memory and thinking concerns should talk to their doctor to find out whether their symptoms are due to Alzheimers or another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinsons disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or another type of dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.
In addition, an early diagnosis provides people with more opportunities to participate in clinical trials or other research studies testing possible new treatments for Alzheimers.
Support For Family And Friends
Currently, many people living with Alzheimers disease are cared for at home by family members. Caregiving can have positive aspects for the caregiver as well as the person being cared for. It may bring personal fulfillment to the caregiver, such as satisfaction from helping a family member or friend, and lead to the development of new skills and improved family relationships.
Although most people willingly provide care to their loved ones and friends, caring for a person with Alzheimers disease at home can be a difficult task and may become overwhelming at times. Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior. As the disease gets worse, people living with Alzheimers disease often need more intensive care.
How Is Alzheimer’s Different From Other Forms Of Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease is distinguished from other forms of dementia by characteristic changes in the brain that are visible only upon microscopic examination during autopsy. Brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease often show presence of the following:
Fiber tangles within nerve cells
Clusters of degenerating nerve endings
Another characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease is the reduced production of certain brain chemicals necessary for communication between nerve cells, especially acetylcholine, as well as norepinephrine, serotonin, and somatostatin.
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Can Late Be Treated
Like Alzheimers the disease is incurable. Doctors can and do use some of the same drugs to ease symptoms of LATE as they do for Alzheimers, but in the future, there may be targeted drugs that work better for each type of dementia.
When doctors treat cancer today, they analyze a tumours genetic makeup and pair it with therapies that are more likely to be effective. Such precision medicine may one day play a role in treating dementia. We hope to identify subtypes of dementia with cheap and non-invasive blood tests and then have tailored treatments, Dr. Fillit says. Because of the new report, we can now say, its probably LATE, and we know about TDP-43, which ultimately gives us a drug target.
Next, check out the early signs of Alzheimers every adult should know.
Rarer Causes Of Dementia
There are many rarer diseases and conditions that can lead to dementia, or dementia-like symptoms.
These conditions account for only 5% of dementia cases in the UK.
- problems with planning and reasoning
These symptoms are not severe enough to cause problems in everyday life.
If the underlying illness is treated or managed, symptoms of MCI often disappear and cause no further problems.
But in some cases, people with MCI are at increased risk of going on to develop dementia, which is usually caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
Read more about how to prevent dementia.
What To Do If You Suspect Alzheimers Disease
Getting checked by your healthcare provider can help determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are related to Alzheimers disease, or a more treatable conditions such as a vitamin deficiency or a side effect from medication. Early and accurate diagnosis also provides opportunities for you and your family to consider financial planning, develop advance directives, enroll in clinical trials, and anticipate care needs.
What Are The Symptoms Of Alzheimers Disease
Symptoms of Alzheimers disease vary from person to person and worsen over time. Symptoms of the disease include:
- Memory loss. This is usually one of the first symptoms of Alzheimers disease.
- Putting objects in odd places
- Confusion about events, time and place
- Repeating questions
For more information on the stage of disease, click here.
What Is The Burden Of Alzheimers Disease In The United States
- Alzheimers disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.2
- The 6th leading cause of death among US adults.
- The 5th leading cause of death among adults aged 65 years or older.3
In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimers disease.1 This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
In 2010, the costs of treating Alzheimers disease were projected to fall between $159 and $215 billion.4 By 2040, these costs are projected to jump to between $379 and more than $500 billion annually.4
Death rates for Alzheimers disease are increasing, unlike heart disease and cancer death rates that are on the decline.5 Dementia, including Alzheimers disease, has been shown to be under-reported in death certificates and therefore the proportion of older people who die from Alzheimers may be considerably higher.6
Health Environmental And Lifestyle Factors
Research suggests that a host of factors beyond genetics may play a role in the development and course of Alzheimers. There is a great deal of interest, for example, in the relationship between cognitive decline and vascular conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Ongoing research will help us understand whether and how reducing risk factors for these conditions may also reduce the risk of Alzheimers.
A nutritious diet, physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits have all been associated with helping people stay healthy as they age. These factors might also help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimers. Researchers are testing some of these possibilities in clinical trials.
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Reliable Alzheimers & Dementia Care Solutions
If your family member is forgetting to take their medication or perform daily tasks such as bathing or washing the dishes, this is a sign its time to transition them to a memory care assisted living facility. Are you struggling to care for a loved one with Alzheimers or dementia? The staff at our dementia care facility specializes at caring for individuals with Alzheimers and other types of dementia. Give our team a call by phone at 534-0886 to become familiar with the dementia care options in our community.
Causes Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by the abnormal build-up of 2 proteins called amyloid and tau.
Deposits of amyloid, called plaques, build up around brain cells. Deposits of tau form “tangles” within brain cells.
Researchers do not fully understand how amyloid and tau are involved in the loss of brain cells, but research into this is continuing.
As brain cells become affected in Alzheimer’s, there’s also a decrease in chemical messengers involved in sending messages, or signals, between brain cells.
Levels of 1 neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, are particularly low in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Medicines like donepezil increase levels of acetylcholine, and improve brain function and symptoms.
These treatments are not a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but they do help improve symptoms.
Read more about treatments for dementia.
The symptoms that people develop depend on the areas of the brain that have been damaged by the disease.
The hippocampus is often affected early on in Alzheimer’s disease. This area of the brain is responsible for laying down new memories. That’s why memory problems are one of the earliest symptoms in Alzheimer’s.
Unusual forms of Alzheimer’s disease can start with problems with vision or with language.
Read more about Alzheimer’s disease.
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What Causes Alzheimers Disease
In recent years, scientists have made tremendous progress in better understanding Alzheimers and the momentum continues to grow. Still, scientists dont yet fully understand what causes Alzheimers disease in most people. In people with early-onset Alzheimers, a genetic mutation may be the cause. Late-onset Alzheimers arises from a complex series of brain changes that may occur over decades. The causes probably include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The importance of any one of these factors in increasing or decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimers may differ from person to person.
Support For Families And Alzheimer’s Disease Caregivers
Caring for a person with Alzheimers can have significant physical, emotional, and financial costs. The demands of day-to-day care, changes in family roles, and decisions about placement in a care facility can be difficult. NIA supports efforts to evaluate programs, strategies, approaches, and other research to improve the quality of care and life for those living with dementia and their caregivers.
Becoming well-informed about the disease is one important long-term strategy. Programs that teach families about the various stages of Alzheimers and about ways to deal with difficult behaviors and other caregiving challenges can help.
Good coping skills, a strong support network, and respite care are other things that may help caregivers handle the stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimers. For example, staying physically active provides physical and emotional benefits.
Some caregivers have found that joining a support group is a critical lifeline. These support groups enable caregivers to find respite, express concerns, share experiences, get tips, and receive emotional comfort. Many organizations sponsor in-person and online support groups, including groups for people with early-stage Alzheimers and their families.
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What Newer Medications Are Under Study
All currently approved medications target Alzheimers disease after it develops. Scientists are currently researching ways to stop or slow the progress of Alzheimers disease before it starts.
Some of the drugs in late-stage investigation are called monoclonal antibodies. These drugs target the amyloid protein that builds up in brain cells. They work by attaching to the amyloid proteins as they float in the brain and remove them, before they form into the plaques and tangles that interfere with the brains ability to properly function.
These drugs are still in clinical trials and are several years away from Food and Drug Administration approval in the United States. Early results have been mixed, with some trials showing no improvement in brain function; others showing a slight improvement . Despite the mixed results, researchers are excited about this new potential method to modify the disease process.
Causes Of Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Lewy bodies are tiny clumps of a protein called alpha-synuclein that can develop inside brain cells.
These clumps damage the way the cells work and communicate with each other, and the brain cells eventually die.
Dementia with Lewy bodies is closely related to Parkinson’s disease and often has some of the same symptoms, including difficulty with movement and a higher risk of falls.
Read more about dementia with Lewy bodies.
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What Is Alzheimers Disease
- Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia.
- It is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.
- Alzheimers disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.
- It can seriously affect a persons ability to carry out daily activities.
What Is The Outlook For People With Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease gets worse over time and is ultimately fatal. Persons with Alzheimers disease live, on average, four to eight years after diagnosis. Some patients can live as long as 20 years after diagnosis. The course of the disease varies from person to person.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/18/2019.
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The Basics Of Alzheimers Disease
Scientists are conducting studies to learn more about plaques, tangles, and other biological features of Alzheimers disease. Advances in brain imaging techniques allow researchers to see the development and spread of abnormal amyloid and tau proteins in the living brain, as well as changes in brain structure and function. Scientists are also exploring the very earliest steps in the disease process by studying changes in the brain and body fluids that can be detected years before Alzheimers symptoms appear. Findings from these studies will help in understanding the causes of Alzheimers and make diagnosis easier.
One of the great mysteries of Alzheimers disease is why it largely affects older adults. Research on normal brain aging is exploring this question. For example, scientists are learning how age-related changes in the brain may harm neurons and affect other types of brain cells to contribute to Alzheimers damage. These age-related changes include atrophy of certain parts of the brain, inflammation, blood vessel damage, production of unstable molecules called free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction .
Medical Conditions That Can Mimic Dementia
Even as a sleep-deprived and inexperienced intern, several decades ago, I knew something was wrong when I was asked to evaluate Mrs. M, a woman well into her 90s who was admitted for care of dementia. She was reputed to have been sharp as a tack until the preceding week. Following the operation that repaired her cataracts, which in those days meant a period of patched eyes and bedrest, her behavior changed quickly and dramatically. Her lovely personality became irritable and angry. Her language became abusive. She scratched a caregiver in her nursing home who was trying to help her get dressed.
It seemed very likely to me that Mrs. Ms sudden change in behavior had more to do with her operation than with a progressive neurological condition.
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Stage 6: Severe Decline
People with the sixth stage of Alzheimers need constant supervision and frequently require professional care. Symptoms include:
- Confusion or unawareness of environment and surroundings
- Inability to recognize faces except for the closest friends and relatives
- Inability to remember most details of personal history
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Major personality changes and potential behavior problems
- The need for assistance with activities of daily living such as toileting and bathing
A Condition That Can Fool Even Experienced Doctors
In fact, Mrs. M was suffering from delirium, at that time called acute organic brain syndrome that results in rapidly changing mental states, and causes confusion and changes in behavior. She returned to her previous healthy cognitive status very quickly after her eye patches were removed and her post-operative recovery continued.
The lesson I learned from her recovery was that delirium can fool even experienced doctors into misdiagnosing dementia, which is now called Major Neurocognitive Disorder . Confustion, disorientation, and memory impairment are signs of delirium that are shared with MaND.
Delirium looks very different, though, in other ways. It comes on rapidly, often after a medical or surgical event or toxic combination of medications. It is accompanied by shifting alertness, resulting in moments of sleepiness alternating with moments of agitation. Delirium is more often associated with visual hallucinations or psychotic delusions than MaND. And, most importantly, delirium can often be reversed once the cause is found and treated.
Its causes are many and include infection, metabolic disturbances, toxic medication reactions, withdrawal from alcohol, and the effects of head injury, just to name a few.
What makes this especially tragic is that distinguishing delirium from MaND is usually not too difficult and just requires careful attention to history, symptoms, physical and mental status examinations, and the results of common laboratory tests.
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Conditions That Are Similar To Alzheimers Disease
Posted By C-Care
Alzheimers Disease is a degenerative brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory and cognitive abilities. There are over 100 diseases and conditions that can mimic Alzheimers, so it is easy to immediately think you or a loved one have developed this incurable scourge.
Fortunately, many other conditions that are similar to Alzheimers disease are treatable.
We will highlight the most common early symptoms of Alzheimers and then discuss 8 other conditions that are similar.
Early Alzheimers Symptoms
- Memory loss that affects daily life, especially recently learned information. Driving to familiar places may become difficult, or forgetting important dates, or the day of the week. Repetitive questioning is another early symptom.
- Difficulty solving problems or doing familiar tasks like paying bills and cooking dinner. Many tasks will take longer to do.
- Problems with words and vocabulary, both spoken and written.
- Changes in mood and/or personality, like confusion, suspicion, fear, disorientation and anxiety.
If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment to find out the cause. Be aware that many of these symptoms could be similar to another treatable disease, especially in seniors.
More serious diseases that are similar to Alzheimers
What Is Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease was described by James Parkinson nearly 100 years before Dr. Alois Alzheimer described the dementia later named Alzheimers disease . Called the shaking palsy by Parkinson, PD is diagnosed when a person shows at least two of these three symptoms: slowed movements , muscle rigidity, and tremor . We recognize many other associated signs of PD, including expressionless face, quiet speech, cramped handwriting, shuffling gait, trouble getting out of a chair, and difficulty swallowing. Many of the symptoms of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease result when certain nerve cells that produce dopamine in the brain begin to malfunction and die.
Most cases are called idiopathic, meaning the cause remains unknown, although a small number of cases are linked with poisoning , head trauma, more complex PD-like neurological disorders , or reversible toxic medication effects ,
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Common Diseases That Mimic Dementia
1. Thyroid diseaseThe thyroid makes hormones that keep every system in the body running smoothly.
Thyroid disease usually develops slowly, which is why symptoms might be mistaken for normal aging.
But too little or too much thyroid hormone could cause dementia-like symptoms. A primary care doctor or an endocrinologist can use a simple blood test to measure thyroid levels.
Thyroid problems can usually be treated with medications, but sometimes require surgery.
2. DiabetesAccording to the American Diabetes Association, 25% of Americans over age 60 have diabetes.
If your older adult has undiagnosed diabetes, it could be causing their memory problems, confusion, irritability, or lack of concentration.
That happens because the body needs a certain amount of glucose to keep blood vessels functioning properly.
Too much or too little glucose damages blood vessels in the brain and causes dementia-like symptoms.
Catching this problem early and getting proper treatment is essential for reversing the symptoms. Ask your older adults doctor to test for diabetes.
3. Alcohol abuseOver time, heavy drinking destroys brain cells in areas that are critical for memory, thinking, decision-making, and balance.
It could also lead to an unhealthy diet that doesnt include essential vitamins like B-1 a severe deficiency in B-1 can cause confusion, memory loss, hostility, and agitation.
But these conditions can also affect alertness, memory, and executive function.
Dementia With Lewy Bodies
Initial symptoms: Dementia with Lewy bodies is a type of Lewy body dementia. Dementia with Lewy bodies involves both body symptoms such as motor and muscle weakness and rigidity, as well as brain symptoms like making decisions, memory impairment, and attention span.
In dementia with Lewy bodies, the brain symptoms develop before the body symptoms, at the same time or less than a year after the body symptoms present.
Progression: Dementia with Lewy bodies can vary quite a bit, even from day to day. However, in general the disease starts slowly and worsens gradually.
Prognosis: Average life expectancy depends on many factors but is estimated to be approximately 5 to 8 years after diagnosis.
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A New Disease Mimics Alzheimer’s Symptoms In People Aged 85 And Olderbut It’s Entirely Different Get The Facts On Late
According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, there are 25,000 new cases of Alzheimersa progressive brain disease marked by problems with memory and thinking that interfere with daily lifediagnosed every year. Now new research suggests some of these peopleespecially those aged 85 and oldermay actually have a newly coined form of dementia known as LATE: limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy. The acronym is apt since the condition tends to strike people later in life than Alzheimers.
Approximately one in three of all persons over age 85 diagnosed with Alzheimers may actually have LATE, says study author Peter Nelson, MD, PhD, a professor at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
The new report, which appears in the journal Brain, is based on a National Institute on Aging project on LATE, and it included researchers from more than 20 institutions in six countries.
Memory May Be Preserved In Condition With Brain Changes Similar To Alzheimers Disease
The American Academy of Neurology is the world’s largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 36,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
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Disorders Of The Heart And Lungs
The heart and lungs provide the brain with oxygen and nutrients that are necessary for proper functioning. Age is often accompanied by vascular disease that interferes with cardiac output or lung disease that interferes with the delivery of oxygen to the brain. These underlying diseases can cause MaND as well as whats commonly known as vascular dementia . They can also affect alertness, memory, and executive function..
Stage 5: Moderately Severe Decline
During the fifth stage of Alzheimers, people begin to need help with many day-to-day activities. People in stage five of the disease may experience:
- Difficulty dressing appropriately
- Inability to recall simple details about themselves such as their own phone number
- Significant confusion
On the other hand, people in stage five maintain functionality. They typically can still bathe and toilet independently. They also usually still know their family members and some detail about their personal histories, especially their childhood and youth.
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Late: Whats In A Name
Recent research and clinical trials in Alzheimers disease have taught us two things: First, not all of the people we thought had Alzheimers have it; second, it is very important to understand the other contributors to dementia, says Nina Silverberg, PhD, director of the Alzheimers Disease Centers Program at the NIA, in a news release.
Dr. Nelson agrees: A growing awareness of non-Alzheimers diseases that underlie the clinical syndrome of dementia will assist in both clinical trials for Alzheimers, and also for the non-Alzheimers dementias such as LATE, he says. I hope that we can now get on to better tailoring the right therapeutic strategies to the right groups of individuals.
Time is of the essence, Dr. Fillit adds. The old-old or individuals aged 85 and older are the fastest growing segment of our population.