Scientists believe that changes in the brain may begin 10 to 20 years before symptoms appear and Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed.
Mild Alzheimer's dementia
- Memory problems
- Finding the right words to use
- Getting lost
- Difficulty managing money
- Repeating questions
- Losing things
- Taking longer to do routine tasks
- Showing poor judgment
- Changes in personality or loss of a spark for life
Moderate Alzheimer's dementia
- Increased memory loss and confusion
- Problems recognizing family and friends
- Loss of ability to learn new things
- Difficulty completing routine tasks that have multiple steps, such as getting dressed
- Problems coping with new situations
- Delusions and paranoia
- Impulsive behavior
Severe Alzheimer's dementia
- Inability to communicate
- Inability to recognize oneself or family
- Weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing
- Groaning or grunting
- Increased sleeping
- Lack of bowel and bladder control
AD is typically diagnosed after healthcare providers perform tests and look at health history to help determine whether a person's memory problems or other mental skills are declining over time. Your doctor may:
- Ask about your medical history, your ability to carry out routine tasks, and changes in your behavior or personality.
- Perform tests to assess your memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language skills.
- Order medical tests to check your urine, blood, and spinal fluid.
- Conduct brain scans, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test.
There is no cure for AD. Scientists believe that because it is a complex disease, it's unlikely that one treatment will prevent or cure it. Extensive research is developing and testing a variety of possible treatments for AD.
Current treatments: These focus on ways to slow symptoms of the disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four drugs to treat Alzheimer's dementia:
- For mild to moderate symptoms, rivastigmine, galantamine, and donepezil may help maintain mental abilities and control specific behavioral symptoms for varying periods of time.
- Memantine is designed to help with the symptoms of moderate and severe Alzheimer's dementia.
- Donepezil is also used for severe Alzheimer's dementia.
Potential treatments: Scientists are now conducting research studies to see if they can find ways to delay or prevent the disease by targeting the underlying disease process. Possible strategies include:
- drugs that interfere with basic processes that may be involved in Alzheimer's, including immunization therapy and other interventions designed to lower the levels of Alzheimer's pathologies in the brain
- treatments for health issues that may be related to AD, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes
- cognitive training
- specific diets