Alzheimer's Disease

Overview

Definition

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.

Areas of the Brain Affected by Alzheimer Disease
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Causes

The exact cause is not known. Genetics may play a role.

Risk Factors

It is more common in people who are 65 and older. It is also more common in people who have other families members who have it. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Depression

Lifestyle habits that may raise the risk are:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Lack of activity

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Symptoms start slowly and get worse over time. They may be:

  • Memory loss
  • Losing items
  • Problems planning or solving problems
  • Problems making decisions
  • Problems doing day to day tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Problems with images and spatial skills
  • Problems speaking and writing
  • Problems sleeping
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Personality changes
  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there
  • Believing things that are not based in reality

Diagnosis

There are no tests to confirm the disease. The doctor will as about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. A cognitive exam will also be done. More tests will be done to rule out problems.

Blood tests will be done.

Images may be taken of the brain. This can be done with:

  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • PET/CT scan

Some people may need more testing based on their symptoms.

Treatments

Treatment

There is no cure. The goal of most care is support and safety. A person may need to be placed in a care facility when care can no longer be provided at home. Treatment options are:

Medicine

Some people may be given medicine to help slow the disease. It may be:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors to treat changes in thinking
  • N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist to improve memory

Other Treatments

Other treatments may be used to slow the disease. These may be:

  • Cognitive training to engage thinking
  • Occupational therapy to improve function

Prevention

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 to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men
  • Staying at a healthy weight
  • Managing chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Alzheimer Dementia)

RESOURCES

Alzheimer's Association http://www.alz.org 

National Institute on Aging http://www.nia.nih.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Alzheimer Society Canada http://www.alzheimer.ca 

Health Canada https://www.canada.ca 

References

Alzheimer dementia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alzheimer-dementia  . Updated August 9, 2019. Accessed October 18, 2019.

Atri A. The Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Spectrum: Diagnosis and Management. Med Clin North Am. 2019 Mar;103(2):263-293.

Treatment of Alzheimer's disease. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-medications-fact-sheet. Accessed October 2, 2017.

9/3/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at:  http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114193/Alzheimer-dementia  : Wippold FJ, Brown DC, Broderick DF, et al. American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria for dementia and movement disorders. Available at: http://www.acr.org/~/media/ACR/Documents/AppCriteria/Diagnostic/DementiaAndMovementDisorders.pdf. Updated 2014. Accessed September 3, 2014.

10/17/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at:  http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114193/Alzheimer-dementia  : Arvanitakis Z, Capuano AW, et al. Relation of cerebral vessel disease to Alzheimer's disease dementia and cognitive function in elderly people: a cross-sectional study. Lancet Neurol. 2016 Aug;15(9):934-943.