1. What is Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)?
This is a slowly progressive disease of the brain that causes impairment of memory and decision making. This is the commonest type of dementia (memory problem of the brain). Other types of memory problems may be due to Stroke, blood pressure, Parkinson Plus etc.
This disease mostly affects older people above the age of 70 years.
2. What are the warning signs and symptoms of AD?
- Memory loss (forgetting important dates or events)
- Problems talking with others or writing (For example, a person may struggle to find the right words for items or names of people or places.)
- Disorientation to time and place (for example, forgetting where they are, loosing track of the seasons, dates, and passage of time)
- Difficulty performing familiar tasks (problems remembering the rules to a favorite game or driving to a familiar place)
- Poor or decreased judgment (for example, poor hygiene or poor judgment when dealing with money or financial matters)
- Problems reading or judging distances
- Problems with problem solving or planning (for example financial matters, bills, bank matters)
- Misplacing things (for example, a person put items in unusual places and then are not able to retrace their steps find them again)
- Changes in mood, personality, or behavior
- Loss of initiative or withdrawal from social or work activities
3. What other problems are associated with Alzheimer ’s disease?
A significant number of patients will suffer from agitation, anxiety and depression and temporary confusion (delirium). These problems should and must be treated.
Patient is also risk for injury from falls at home or outside.
4. What should I do if a family member is exhibiting these symptoms?
You must contact a physician for further evaluation. While some of these symptoms are part of normal aging, for normal people, they are infrequent and do not interfere with daily living.
Your physician will check your blood pressure and do an examination. She will also likely order some blood tests (such as CBC, Thyroid tests, Serum B12 level, kidney and liver function, fasting blood sugar, HbA1c, fasting lipid profile etc.) and an MRI of the Brain. She may also perform tests of your memory, alertness and recall (called Mini Mental Status Examination)
5. What treatment options are available?
There is no “cure” presently. However, there are a number of interventions available to help patients improve their memory, attention and ability to function. (a) Medications. Your doctor will decide which medication is appropriate. Some commonly used medications include Donepezil, Memantine, Rivastagmine and Galantamine. These medications work by improving communication between brain cells to enhance memory and attention.
(b) Cognitive Therapy. Just as you would do physical exercise to strengthen your body, similarly cognitive therapy is exercise for your brain (“Smart Brain”). Advanced centers use Computer-based Cognitive Therapy which is more precise and effective.
(c) Non-invasive Brain Stimulation. For selective patients with memory problems, non-invasive brain stimulation (tDCS) is an effective therapy offered at advanced clinics.