What Will The Doctor Do
It can be hard for a doctor to diagnose Alzheimer disease because many of its symptoms can be like those of other conditions affecting the brain. The doctor will talk to the patient, find out about any medical problems the person has, and will examine him or her.
The doctor can ask the person questions or have the person take a written test to see how well his or her memory is working. Doctors also can use medical tests to take a detailed picture of the brain. They can study these images and look for signs of Alzheimer disease.
When a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, the doctor may prescribe medicine to help with memory and thinking. The doctor also might give the person medicine for other problems, such as depression . Unfortunately, the medicines that the doctors have can’t cure Alzheimer disease they just help slow it down.
How Is Alzheimer Dementia Diagnosed
An Alzheimer Dementia diagnosis may take some time. There is no test that can tell your doctor whether you have the disease. Give your doctor plenty of information to help determine the cause of your symptoms. Your doctor may want to evaluate the following in you or your loved one:
- Current health and medical history.
- Daily routine and any changes in your behavior.
- Memory, problem-solving, attention, and language abilities.
- Lab tests, such as blood or urine tests.
- Brain scans to look for problems, such as stroke, that may be causing symptoms.
Based on this information, your doctor can almost always tell whether you have dementia. Your doctor will likely be able to tell whether Alzheimer Dementia is the cause of your dementia. However, Alzheimer Dementia can only be diagnosed with certainty after death. That is when the brain is examined under a microscope. The brain of a person who had Alzheimer Dementia will show very distinct changes that only happen when Alzheimer Dementia is the cause of dementia.
If you are worried that you or a loved one might have some of the warning signs of Alzheimer Dementia, talk to your doctor. An early diagnosis will help you get treatment earlier. Also, it will give you time to address questions of care, finances, and legal issues with your family.
Medications For Cognitive Symptoms
No disease-modifying drugs are available for Alzheimers disease, but some options may reduce the symptoms and help improve quality of life.
Drugs called cholinesterase inhibitors can ease cognitive symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, altered thought processes, and judgment problems. They improve neural communication across the brain and slow the progress of these symptoms.
Three common drugs with Food and Drug Administration approval to treat these symptoms of Alzheimers disease are:
- donepezil , to treat all stages
- galantamine , to treat mild-to-moderate stages
- rivastigmine , to treat mild-to-moderate stages
Another drug, called memantine , has approval to treat moderate-to-severe Alzheimers disease. A combination of memantine and donepezil is also available.
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What Is Alzheimer Disease
Alzheimer disease, which affects some older people, is different from everyday forgetting. It is a condition that permanently affects the brain. Over time, the disease makes it harder to remember even basic stuff, like how to tie a shoe.
Eventually, the person may have trouble remembering the names and faces of family members or even who he or she is. This can be very sad for the person and his or her family.
It’s important to know that Alzheimer disease does not affect kids. It usually affects people over 65 years of age. Researchers have found medicines that seem to slow the disease down. And there’s hope that someday there will be a cure.
How The Body Shuts Down
As your body declines it raises the risk for other health problems.
- Infections may develop as your immune system begins to fail.
- Pneumonia can set in, especially if you inhale food or drinks by accident.
- Injuries from falls are more likely to happen.
It’s best to have conversations early on about how you’d like to be cared for. These conversations can be hard, but having a plan can make it easier for you and your family.
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How Alzheimer’s Disease Is Treated
There’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but medicines are available that can help relieve some of the symptoms.
Various other types of support are also available to help people with Alzheimer’s live as independently as possible, such as making changes to your home environment so it’s easier to move around and remember daily tasks.
Psychological treatments such as cognitive stimulation therapy may also be offered to help support your memory, problem solving skills and language ability.
Read more about treating Alzheimer’s disease.
How Does Alzheimers Affect The Brain
A healthy brain contains billions of neurons, which are specialized cells that process and transmit information between different parts of the brain to the muscles and organs of the body via electrical and chemical signals . Alzheimers disease disrupts this communication. This ultimately results in loss of function and cell death.
The brain typically shrinks to some degree as a person ages, but it doesnt actually lose neurons in large numbers. In Alzheimers disease the damage is larger. Neurons stop functioning and lose connection with other neurons affecting communication.
It first starts with destroying neurons that are involved in memory and eventually affects areas in the brain responsible for language, reasoning and social behavior. Overtime, a person may lose his or her ability to live and function independently.
People with Alzheimers may also experience vascular problems that may lead to reduced blood flow and oxygen to the brain. This results in inflammation which adds further vascular problems.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Alzheimers Disease
Early on, Alzheimers disease may be hard to notice. The first signs are usually memory loss and difficulty finding the right words for everyday things. However, many people have trouble with memory but dont have Alzheimers so its important to visit a doctor to work out the exact cause of memory problems.
Other common symptoms of Alzheimers disease include:
- vagueness in daily conversation
Alzheimers disease is sometimes classified into 3 stages, based on the severity of symptoms:
Symptoms will progress differently between people, depending on what areas of the brain are affected. A persons symptoms may also change from day to day and can become worse with stress, illness or tiredness.
Who Has Alzheimers Disease
- In 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimers disease.1
- Younger people may get Alzheimers disease, but it is less common.
- The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.
- This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
- Symptoms of the disease can first appear after age 60, and the risk increases with age.
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Study Shows Link Between Alzheimers And Heart Disease
Recently, researchers discovered that Alzheimers is caused by amyloid beta proteins building up in the spaces between brain cells. While this causes noticeable symptoms in the brain first, this same protein plaque can build up around the heart.
This was discovered in a study that examined 22 patients with Alzheimers and 35 patients without, all of whom were 78 or 79 years old. The goal was to analyze the stiffness present in the hearts left ventricle the thickest chamber of the heart responsible for transporting blood throughout the body.
During the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers discovered that those with Alzheimers had a thicker left ventricle than those without Alzheimers. This thickness was caused by the same plaque protein buildup that was building in the Alzheimers patients brains. The thickness can lead to various cardiovascular issues if and when the left ventricle becomes too thick to successfully pump blood through the body. As a result, this puts Alzheimers patients at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
Would Vitamin D D Help With Memory Problems
There is an indole molecule called vitamin D, which is able to cross the bloodbrain barrier and its receptors are present all over the central nervous system by itself. Research has shown Vit D supplementation can improve cognitive performance, more than doubling your attention span, and bettering your memory14.
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Treatment For Alzheimer’s Disease
At this stage, there is no cure and no treatment that can stop the Alzheimers disease progressing.Medications are available that can help to stabilise or slow the decline in memory and thinking abilities for a time, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Other medications are available that might help with secondary symptoms like depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances.It is important to remember that all medications have side effects. People with Alzheimers disease may take a number of medications and your doctor can help you to understand how the different medications might interact with each other.Non-medication therapies, staying active and socially connected, as well as managing stress, can help people with Alzheimers disease. Education and professional support are important for people with Alzheimers disease and their families and carers.
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 .
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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.
Causes Of Alzheimer’s Disease
The brain is made up of billions of nerve cells that connect to each other. In Alzheimers disease, connections between these cells are lost. This is because proteins build up and form abnormal structures called plaques and tangles. Eventually nerve cells die and brain tissue is lost.
The brain also contains important chemicals that help to send signals between cells. People with Alzheimers have less of some of these chemical messengers in their brain, so the signals are not passed on as well. There are some drug treatments for Alzheimers disease that can help boost the levels of some chemical messengers in the brain. This can help with some of the symptoms.
Alzheimers is a progressive disease. This means that gradually, over time, more parts of the brain are damaged. As this happens, more symptoms develop, and they also get worse.More than 520,000 people in the UK have dementia caused by Alzheimers disease and this figure is set to rise.
Dementia and the brain
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It Affects Your Digestive System
Alzheimer’s disease affects your digestive system in many ways. You are likely to develop swallowing problems in the earlier stages of the disease. Many patients find it extremely difficult to eat without choking. The accidental entry of liquids and food into the airways may increase the risk of pneumonia which is a common cause of death of people with Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s disease may also develop an impaired sense of smell and this in turn leads to an impaired sense of taste. These impairments can make eating very difficult. Poor bowel control is also associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Progress
The rate of progression of the disease varies from person to person.
However, the disease does lead eventually to complete dependence and finally death, usually from another illness such as pneumonia. A person may live from three to twenty years with Alzheimer’s disease, with the average being seven to ten years.
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What Are The Warning Signs Of Alzheimers Disease
Watch this video play circle solid iconMemory Loss is Not a Normal Part of Aging
Alzheimers disease is not a normal part of aging. Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of Alzheimers disease and related dementias.
In addition to memory problems, someone with symptoms of Alzheimers disease may experience one or more of the following:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
- Trouble handling money and paying bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
- Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior.
Even if you or someone you know has several or even most of these signs, it doesnt mean its Alzheimers disease. Know the 10 warning signs .
Body Systems Worsen Over Time
Early-stage Alzheimer’s is usually characterized by some degree of memory loss and difficulty with problem-solving and communication, according to the Mayo Clinic. But as Alzheimer’s progresses to the “moderate” stage, people with the disease often experience a dual-track breakdown of both cognitive and physical function. Ultimately, they’ll need assistance with basics like moving about the home, grooming, bathing, going to the bathroom and even eating. The loss of control over the body becomes more pronounced as Alzheimer’s moves into its advanced stage.
“As the disease progresses to areas of the brain beyond those responsible for memory and language, it starts to destroy parts of the brain that control all the bodily functions that are most important for life,” Edelmayer warns. “Incontinence is a common problem. Many people with Alzheimer’s experience difficulty walking, speaking and swallowing.”
An activity as central to life as eating can become a huge hurdle beyond losing the ability to swallow. Appetite can be affected because Alzheimer’s can take away the sense of smell, according to a study published in JAMA Neurology in November 2015. On the cognitive side, “people with severe Alzheimer’s may forget how to feed themselves,” Edelmayer says.
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What Happens To The Brain In Alzheimer’s Disease
The healthy human brain contains tens of billions of neuronsspecialized cells that process and transmit information via electrical and chemical signals. They send messages between different parts of the brain, and from the brain to the muscles and organs of the body. Alzheimers disease disrupts this communication among neurons, resulting in loss of function and cell death.
How Is Alzheimers Disease Treated
Alzheimers is complex, and it is therefore unlikely that any one drug or other intervention will successfully treat it in all people living with the disease.
Scientists are exploring many avenues to delay or prevent the disease as well as to treat its symptoms. In ongoing clinical trials, scientists are developing and testing several possible interventions. Under study are drug therapies aimed at a variety of disease interventions, as well as nondrug approaches such as physical activity, diet, cognitive training, and combinations of these. Just as we have many treatments for heart disease and cancer, we will likely need many options for treating Alzheimers. Precision medicine getting the right treatment to the right person at the right time will likely play a major role.
Current approaches to treating Alzheimers focus on helping people maintain mental function, treating the underlying disease process, and managing behavioral symptoms.
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What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is a condition in which people have more memory problems than normal for their age but are still able to carry out their normal daily activities. A doctor can do thinking, memory, and language tests to see if a person has MCI. People with MCI are at a greater risk for developing Alzheimers disease, so its important to see a doctor or specialist regularly if you have this condition.