Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease

What is Dementia: Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)?

A progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized in the brain by clumps (amyloidal plaques) and tangled bundles of fibrous neurofibrili composed of misplaced proteins. Age is the most important risk factor for AD. The number of people with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. Three genes have been discovered that cause early onset (familial AD). Other genetic mutations that cause excessive accumulation of amyloidal protein are associated with advanced age (sporadic AD). Symptoms of AD include memory loss, language deterioration, and impaired ability to mentally manipulate visual information, poor judgment, confusion, restlessness and mood swings. Eventually AD destroys cognition, personality, and ability to function. The early symptoms of AD, which include forgetfulness and loss of concentration, are often missed because they resemble natural signs of aging.

What are the symptoms?

Early Stage Alzheimer’s
Middle Stage Alzheimer’s
Late Stage Alzheimer’s:

What is the prognosis?

AD is a progressive disease. Its course can vary from 5-20 years. The most common cause of death in AD is infection. Patients with Alzheimer’s live an average of 8 years after diagnosis although some people have lived as many as 20 years after being diagnosed.

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease is reached through a combination of tests. It must be differentiated from the occasional forgetfulness that occurs during normal aging, and from depression, malnutrition, or the side effects from medications; all of which can cause symptoms similar to those of early stage AD. The physician often begins an evaluation by taking a history and performing a physical examination as well as evaluating the patient’s cognitive abilities. This approach can help the doctor determine whether testing is needed. An examination may likely include a thorough medical evaluation and history followed by an extensive neurological and neuropsychological testing. The testing may include imaging of the brain with MRI, EEG testing, lab work-up, and recently approved for difficult to diagnose cases – PET CT scanning.

What is the treatment?

There is no cure for AD and no way to slow the progression of the disease. For some people in the earlier and middle stages of AD, medication such as Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne may keep some symptoms from becoming worse for a limited time. Combining with another medication, Namenda, with the other AD drugs may be more effective than a single therapy. Other medications may help control behavior symptoms such as sleepiness, agitation, wandering, anxiety, and depression.

Alzheimer’s Caregiver

AD is often a family disease because the chronic stress of watching your loved one slowly decline affects everyone. Comprehensive treatment must therefore address the needs for the entire family. This includes emotional support, counseling, and more educational programs about Alzheimer’s Disease for the individual’s family members as they strive to provide a safe and comfortable environment at home. Through training, caregivers can learn how to control unwanted behaviors, improve communication, and keep the person with Alzheimer’s safe. Research has shown that caregiver’s benefit from training and support groups and putting this patient in groups allows caregivers to care for their loved ones at home longer. For valuable information regarding caregivers, visit www.caregiver.org and search for Alzheimer’s Disease.