The disease begins as mild memory lapses. It moves to profound loss of memory and function. Alzheimer's disease is divided into three stages:
Early—memory and cognition loss are noticeable but still able to function independently
Intermediate—mental loss, personality changes more dependent on others for basic needs
Severe—loss of personality and bodily functions; total dependence for care
Increasing trouble remembering things, such as:
How to get to familiar locations
What the names of family and friends are
Where common objects are usually kept
How to do simple math
How to do usual tasks, such as cooking, dressing, bathing, etc.
Having difficulty concentrating on tasks
Having difficulty completing sentences due to lost/forgotten words (may progress to complete inability to speak)
Forgetting the date, time of day, season
Getting lost in familiar surroundings
Having mood swings
Being withdrawn, losing interest in usual activities
Having personality changes
Walking in a slow, shuffling way
Having poor coordination
Losing purposeful movement
There are no tests to definitively diagnose this disease. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will ask many questions. This will help to rule out other causes.
Tests to rule out other medical conditions may include:
Psychological and mental status testing
—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the brain
—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the brain
—to test for levels of certain brain proteins that increase with Alzheimer’s disease and to rule out other disorders
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. There are also no certain ways to slow its progression. Four medicines have received approval for the treatment of some symptoms. Various drugs are being studied to see if they can manage the symptoms or slow the condition's course.
Medications for Symptoms and Disease Progression
Only two types of medicines have been approved to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease:
Cholinesterase inhibitors—approved and recommended for mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease (eg, donepezil
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist—approved for moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease
Treatments that are being studied include:
Tau fiber aggregation inhibitors
Herbs and supplements (eg, vitamin E, ginkgo biloba)—The evidence is mixed as to the effectiveness of these natural remedies.
Managing the disease includes:
Creating an environment in which you can receive the care you need
Optimizing your quality of life
Keeping yourself safe
Helping yourself learn to deal with the frustration of your uncontrollable behavior
Providing a calm, quiet, predictable environment
Providing appropriate eyewear and hearing aids, easy-to-read clocks and calendars
Playing quiet music
Light, appropriate exercise to reduce agitation and relieve depression
Encouraging family and close friends to visit frequently
Psychiatric symptoms may occur with Alzheimer’s disease. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to treat:
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1/8/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: Snitz BE, O'Meara ES, Carlson MC, et al. Ginkgo biloba for preventing cognitive decline in older adults: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2009;302:2663-2670.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a