What causes Alzheimer's disease?
Although intense investigation has been underway for many years, the causes of Alzheimer's disease are not entirely known. Suspected causes often include the following:
- Abnormal protein deposits in the brain
- Age and family history
- Problems with the use of glucose and energy in the nerve cells of the brain
- Certain genes
- Immune system problems
- Stress and other risk and environmental factors
What are the warning signs or symptoms of Alzheimer's disease? Each individual may experience symptoms differently, but the Alzheimer Association has suggested looking for these 10 warning signs:
- Memory changes that disrupt daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
How is Alzheimer's diagnosed?
There is not a single, comprehensive test for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease. By ruling out other conditions through a process of elimination however, our specialists can diagnose the disease.
Examination and evaluation are essential in determining whether the dementia is the result of a treatable illness. In addition to a complete medical history and extensive neurological motor and sensory exam, diagnostic procedures for Alzheimer's disease may include the following:
- Blood tests
- Chest x-ray
- CT Scan - a machine that takes a more detailed picture than an x-ray
- EEG - records the brain's electrical movement using electrodes attached to the scalp
- Genetic testing - some genetic testing is available
- Mental status test - brief and simple test of memory and thinking skills
- Neuropsychological testing
- Spinal Tap - a special needle measures the pressure in the spinal canal and brain
- Urinalysis - laboratory examination of urine for various cells and chemicals
What are the treatments for Alzheimer's?
- Specific treatment is determined by our team of experts and based on:
- Expectations for the course of the disease
- Extent of the disease
- Your age, overall health and medical history
- Your opinion or preference
- Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
At this time, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, no way of slowing down the progression and no treatment available to reverse the deterioration. New research findings give reason for hope, and several drugs are being studied in clinical trials to determine if they can slow the progress of the disease or improve memory for a period of time.
There are some medications available to assist in managing some of the most troubling symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, including the following:
- Behavioral disturbance