Alzheimer's Disease

Meet the Team

Our team members are experts in caring for patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

MEET THE SPECIALISTS

At NHRMC Physician Group - Neurology, our physicians and advanced clinical practitioners provide the most current, comprehensive treatment for Alzheimer disease. Our providers make up a highly skilled neurology team that provides both inpatient and outpatient neurological and stroke care.

Make an appointment with our team to assess your risk for Alzheimer disease.

What is Alzheimer disease?

Alzheimer disease is a type of dementia that affects the brain and nervous system. It happens when nerve cells in the brain die. The disease gets worse over time.

Symptoms of Alzheimer Disease

The following are the most common symptoms of Alzheimer disease. But not everyone has all of these symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Problems with memory
  • Confusion
  • Misplacing things
  • Restlessness
  • Personality, mood or behavior changes
  • Poor judgment
  • Difficulty making sense when talking
  • Problems with following directions
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Problems with eyesight
  • Problems with knowing how objects around you relate to you (spatial awareness)
  • Lack of interest or concern about other people
  • Trouble doing familiar tasks
  • Loss of desire to do things
  • Loss of the ability to know who people are, including people the person knows well such as a child or spouse.

The disease does not affect a person’s movement. He or she can still get around normally.

The symptoms of Alzheimer disease may look like other health conditions or problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Risk Factors and Causes of Alzheimer Disease

The exact cause of Alzheimer disease is unknown. Studies show it might be caused by one or more of the following factors:

  • Age and family history
  • Certain genes
  • Abnormal protein deposits in the brain
  • Environmental factors
  • Immune system problems

Because doctors don’t know what causes the disease, there is no way to prevent it. But some risk factors for dementia can be modified with lifestyle changes. Taking good care of yourself by controlling your blood pressure and glucose can reduce the risk for dementia. Head injury increases the risk of developing dementia, so it is important to wear a helmet when taking part in dangerous activities. Also wear a seat belt and take other measures to prevent brain injury.

Diagnosis

No single test can diagnose Alzheimer disease. A healthcare provider will first rule out other conditions. But the only way to confirm a diagnosis of Alzheimer disease is to examine the brain after death. An autopsy can show changes in the brain that mark the disease.

It’s important to find out if the dementia is caused by an illness that can be treated. A healthcare provider will do thorough exams of the person’s nervous system. The provider may also do:

  • Complete health history: This may include questions about overall health and past health problems. The provider will see how well the person can do daily tasks. The provider may ask family members about any changes in behavior or personality.
  • Mental status test: This may include tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language. Neuropsychological testing may also be done. This will likely be a series of tests that assess your brain function. It usually involves answering questions and doing certain tasks.
  • Other lab tests: These may include blood and urine tests to find possible causes of the problem.
  • Brain imaging tests: CT, MRI, or position emission tomography (PET) may be used to rule out other causes of the problem.

Treatment

At this time, Alzheimer disease has no cure. There is no way of slowing down the progression of this disease. And no treatment is available to reverse the changes that the disease brings on. But new research findings give reason for hope. Several medicines are being studied in clinical trials to see if they can slow the progress of the disease or improve memory.

Some medicines can be useful to help people maintain mental function and carry out daily activities:

  • Donepezil
  • Rivastigmine
  • Galantamine
  • Memantine

There are also lifestyle changes that can help patients manage Alzheimer disease:

  • Exercise
  • Social activities
  • Good nutrition
  • Maintaining a calm and well-structured environment

Complications

Alzheimer disease is progressive, meaning memory loss and problems with doing daily tasks gradually get worse. Each person is affected differently, but most people with Alzheimer disease exhibit mood and behavior problems that make it hard for family members to care for them. As a person is less able to care for himself or herself, families or others must help with personal care, meals, and daily activities. People with advanced Alzheimer disease will most likely need to stay in a place that specializes in care of people with memory disorders.

Care programs for people with Alzheimer disease differ depending on the symptoms a person has and how far along the disease is. These programs can help a person and his or her family manage the disease.