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Alzheimer's Disease

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment


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


Doctor speaking to a woman

Your, or your loved one's, health professional can help explain the different stages of Alzheimer's.

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
  • exercise.
Read More "Alzheimer's Disease" Articles

When Memories Disappear / Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment / 7 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's / Quiz: Alzheimer's Disease Quiz

Fall 2010 Issue: Volume 5 Number 3 Page 19