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by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Alzheimer disease is a disorder of the brain. It leads to a loss of the ability to think, reason, and remember. It worsens over time and will lead to severe impairment. Alzheimer dementia is when the disorder has made it impossible for people to care for themselves.
For reasons that are not yet clear, brain cells stop working well and begin to die. It may be due to a complex mix of genes, environment, and overall health. Two known factors that play a role include:
These changes often begin in areas of the brain that store memory. This damage may start several years before the first symptoms appear.
Risk Factors TOP
There are a number of factors that my increase your risk for Alzheimer . Some factors cannot be changed such as:
Medical or health conditions that can increase your risk include:
Lifestyle factors that may increase risk include:
General symptoms include a gradual decline in :
There are no signs in the earliest stages. At this point there are changes in the brain but not enough to cause signs or symptoms. The speed of progression will vary from person to person but can happen over several years.
Mild Disease (also called early-stage) signs include:
Moderate disease signs include:
Severe disease (late-stage) signs may include:
There are no tests to confirm Alzheimer. Instead, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Tests will help to rule out other issues that can cause dementia. These may include:
The doctor may need images of the brain. It will show how much damage has occurred. This can be done with:
There is no cure for Alzheimer disease. The goal of most care is support and safety. Options include:
Manage Symptom and Disease Progression
Medicine may help to slow the disease progress in some. Options that may reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer disease include:
Certain steps and changes may help to improve the quality of life. Options will depend on individual needs but may include:
Psychiatric Medication TOP
Mental health issues are common. They can have a large impact on quality of life. Medicine may help to manage mental health problems such as:
Caregiver Support TOP
People with Alzheimer will need care all day and night. It can be a very difficult task for the caregiver. They will need support, rest, and regular breaks. Some steps that may help include:
There are no known ways to prevent Alzheimer disease. However, the following factors may reduce your risk of Alzheimer disease:
National Institute on Aging
Alzheimer Society Canada
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Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 5/7/2018
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