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:

Lifestyle habits that may raise the risk are:

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:

Some people may need more testing based on their symptoms.

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

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2019 -
  • Update Date: 10/18/2019 -