What is Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that occurs in later life and results in the loss of cognitive function.
There are three stages associated with the disease which are preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, mild Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s dementia. The preclinical stage can last anywhere from two to twenty years before symptoms arise. This time period allows for early interventions that may help to prevent further degeneration of neurons resulting in Alzheimer’s dementia.
The cause is unknown although age, personal health, family history, genetics and abnormal protein deposits in the brain are believed to contribute.
Symptoms may present in a variety of ways and are generally progressive in nature.
Symptoms may include:
- Memory loss that affects job skills or daily life function
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Impaired memory, thinking, and behavior
- Behavior changes and impaired judgment
- Language deterioration
- Difficulty with visual or spatial awareness
- Emotional apathy
Alzheimer’s disease can only be diagnosed clinically meaning that a diagnosis is based on a person’s medical history, mental and physical examinations, and neuropsychological testing which assess an individual’s memory, language skills, and visuospatial abilities.
This disease can be difficult to diagnose because there are no specific biomarkers. Symptoms are often confused with normal age-related forgetfulness. It is often distinguished from various types of dementia by ruling out other possible causes such as vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease, and can only be diagnosed after the brain has degenerated to the extent that it creates changes in the brain.
Today, Alzheimer’s disease cannot be prevented or cured but early detection increases improvement related to Alzheimer treatment options.
Research is ongoing and there are currently no medications or therapies approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to cure the disease or stop it from progressing. However, our neurology team can provide treatment that may increase mental function, slow memory loss and decrease behavioral problems associated with the disease.
- Medications – Alzheimer dementia medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors may improve communication between neurons in the brain by increasing communication between nerve cells. Cholinesterase inhibitors work by slowing down the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and thinking. Medications such as memantine act as a glutamate receptor antagonist and block the effects of excess glutamate in patients, often improving cognitive function.
- Physiological Treatment – Non-drug related approaches can be used to treat the disease like physical activity, healthy diet and brain stimulation techniques.