Alzheimer disease is a type of dementia. It leads to problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. It starts slowly and gets worse over time. Alzheimer dementia is when the disease makes it hard for people to take care of themselves.
Copyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=23972397si55551132.jpgAreas of the Brain Affected by Alzheimer's DiseaseNULLjpgAreas of the Brain Affected by Alzheimer's DiseaseNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\si55551132.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.24NULL2002-10-012553912397_12061Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
The exact cause is not known. Genetics may play a role.
It is more common in people who are 65 of age and higher. It is also more common in people who have other families members who have it. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Lifestyle habits that may raise the risk are:
- Lack of activity
Symptoms start slowly and get worse over time. They are:
- Memory loss, losing items or getting lost in places they usually know
- Problems planning, solving problems, or making decisions
- Problems doing day-to-day tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Problems with speaking, writing, images, or spatial skills
- Problems sleeping
- Avoiding people or having personality changes
- Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there
- Believing things that are not based in reality
There are no tests that can confirm the disease. The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. A cognitive exam will also be done. Blood tests will be done to rule out other problems.
Images may be taken of the brain. This can be done with:
Some people may need more testing based on their symptoms. This may include a lumbar puncture to check the fluid around the spine and brain.
There is no cure. The goal of most treatment is to support the person and keep them safe. Care facilities can help ease stress on caretakers. Day programs or home care offer support while the person lives at home. A full-time care facility may be needed if home is no longer a safe or healthy place for them and others.
Someone with later stage dementia can need around the clock care. They can wander away, get lost, or get into danger. Changes in emotional control and anxiety may also be hard to manage at home. Some facilities focus on caring for people with dementia. Other treatment steps may include:
Healthy habits may lower the risk of Alzheimer disease in some people. This means:
- Eating a healthful diet
- Not smoking
- Staying mentally active
- Limiting alcohol
- Staying at a healthy weight
- Managing long term health problems, such as high blood pressure
Some medicine may help slow the disease's symptoms or help findings on brain scans. Current medicines include:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors to treat changes in thinking
- N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist to improve memory
- Antibody treatments that target amyloid beta
- Aducanumab (marketed as Aduhelm) information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/postmarket-drug-safety-information-patients-and-providers/aducanumab-marketed-aduhelm-information.
- Alzheimer dementia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alzheimer-dementia.
- Arvanitakis, Z., Capuano, A.W., et al. Relation of cerebral vessel disease to Alzheimer's disease dementia and cognitive function in elderly people: a cross-sectional study. Lancet Neurology, 2016; 15(9): 934-943.
- Atri, A. The Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Spectrum: Diagnosis and Management. Medical Clinics of North America, 2019; 103(2): 263-293.
- How is Alzheimer's disease treated? National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-medications-fact-sheet.
- Rimas Lukas, MD
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