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Guide to Alzheimer's Disease

Understanding Alzheimer's Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Testing

Learn about the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease, possible causes, available treatment options, and how to get tested for this neurodegenerative disorder.

What is the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia?

Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It is a leading cause of dementia in older adults and can have a significant impact on the lives of those affected and their caregivers. In this article, we will explore the signs and symptoms, causes, treatment options, and how to get tested for Alzheimer's Disease.

Signs & Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease typically develop gradually and can include:

  • Memory loss, particularly difficulty remembering recent events.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as cooking or driving.
  • Trouble with language, such as forgetting words or having trouble following or joining a conversation.
  • Disorientation in time and place, such as getting lost in familiar places.
  • Difficulty with abstract thinking, such as trouble understanding numbers or money.
  • Misplacing things, such as putting objects in unusual places.
  • Changes in mood and behavior, such as becoming anxious, agitated or depressed.

Causes of Alzheimer's Disease

The exact cause of Alzheimer's Disease is not known, but research suggests that a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors may play a role. Some known risk factors include:

  • Age: The risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease increases with age.
  • Genetics: Some genetic mutations can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease.
  • Lifestyle factors: Such as poor diet, lack of physical activity, smoking and alcohol use.
  • Environmental factors: Such as exposure to certain toxins and severe head injuries.

Treatment options

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's Disease, but there are treatment options that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. These include:

  • Medications: Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine can help improve memory, thinking, and daily function.
  • Non-pharmacological therapies: Such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy can help with daily activities.
  • Supportive care: Such as counseling, education and support groups can help the patient and their caregivers cope with the disease.

Getting tested

To diagnose Alzheimer's Disease, a healthcare professional will typically conduct a thorough medical evaluation, including a physical exam, a review of medical history, and laboratory tests. They may also use neuropsychological tests to assess memory, thinking, and other cognitive abilities. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease, it is important to seek a medical evaluation as early diagnosis can help with management and treatment. The geriatric and adult neuropsychologists at STLCCH are skilled both in diagnosing this condition as well as providing detailed recommendations for accommodations and interventions if necessary.

Alzheimer's Disease FAQs

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive and degenerative disorder that affects the brain. It is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for a decline in cognitive function severe enough to interfere with daily life.

What are the early signs of Alzheimer's Disease?

The early signs of Alzheimer's Disease may include forgetfulness, difficulty completing familiar tasks, disorientation in new places, and difficulty with language. As the disease progresses, these symptoms will become more severe and may include confusion, agitation, and difficulty with basic activities of daily living.

What causes Alzheimer's Disease?

The exact cause of Alzheimer's Disease is not known, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Studies have shown that people with certain genetic variations are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease. Additionally, people who have had head injuries, a history of cardiovascular disease, or exposure to toxins may also be at a higher risk.

Can Alzheimer's Disease be treated?

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's Disease. However, there are treatments that can help to slow the progression of the disease and improve quality of life for those with the condition. These may include medications to improve symptoms, therapies to address behavioral symptoms, and support for caregivers.

How is Alzheimer's Disease diagnosed?

A diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease is typically made by a neurologist or geriatrician after a thorough evaluation. This may include a detailed medical history, a physical examination, and a variety of tests to assess cognitive function and rule out other possible causes of dementia.

Is there a way to prevent Alzheimer's Disease?

While there is currently no known way to prevent Alzheimer's Disease, research suggests that some lifestyle changes may help to reduce the risk of developing the disease. These include maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular physical exercise, staying mentally active, and managing other health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

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The St. Louis Center for Cognitive Health is here to help those who may be struggling with neurobehavioral disorders or cognitive dysfunction.

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With a focus on accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, we are here to support you on your journey towards better health and wellness.