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Alzheimer Disease


What is Alzheimer disease?

Alzheimer disease (AD) is an irreversible brain disorder that results in the gradual loss of memory. Parts of the brain die and cannot make normal levels of brain chemicals. This causes problems with how you think, behave, and remember things. The disease usually starts at about age 65 to 70 years but can start earlier. A person usually has AD for 2 to 10 years, but some people may live 20 years or more with the disease. The exact cause of AD is not known.

What increases my risk for AD?

The risk of AD increases with age, but it is not a normal part of aging. The following may increase your risk for AD:

  • A family history of AD
  • A protein called ApoE, which normally carries cholesterol in the blood
  • Diabetes or Down syndrome
  • High cholesterol or carotid artery disease
  • A heart attack, head injury, or depression
  • Smoking cigarettes

What are the signs and symptoms of AD?

  • Mild AD: Early AD symptoms may be minor and last from 1 to 3 years.
    • Memory loss: Remembering what happened years ago, but unable to remember things from yesterday or forgetting the names of common things or people you know
    • Confusion about what month or season it is
    • Forgetting to brush your teeth or comb your hair
    • Difficulty taking care of your home or finances or difficulty making decisions
    • Loss of interest in your usual activities
    • Feeling depressed, angry, or confused about the changes you notice
  • Moderate AD:
    • Problems choosing what clothes to wear, doing simple jobs, or caring for your self
    • Unable to recognize people familiar to you
    • Difficulty finding words to say what you mean, trouble talking in normal sentences, or speech that is difficult to understand
    • Feeling anxious, restless, and agitated at night and seeming depressed or worried
    • Difficulty controlling emotions and becoming loud, violent, and hard to control
    • Becoming confused and wandering off or pacing
    • Unable to plan and follow through with activities
    • Thinking something is true even though it is not, seeing things that are not actually there, or inability to control when you urinate
  • Severe AD:
    • Complete loss of memory
    • Complete loss of speech
    • Loss of bladder and bowel control
    • Finding it very difficult to walk
    • Becoming angry and out of control or aggressive and destroying things
    • Unable to care for yourself and needing someone to take care of you

How is AD diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you. He will ask questions about your symptoms and when they started. He will ask you questions to check memory, problem solving, and language skills. He will ask if you have other family members with AD. He will also ask what medicine you take and if you drink alcohol or use tobacco.

  • MRI or CT pictures of your brain may be taken. You may be given contrast liquid before the scan. Tell a healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • A PET scan may be used to record the activity of chemicals in your brain.

How is AD treated?

There is no known cure for AD. Treatment includes keeping a good quality of life, for as long as possible. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about the most current treatment available. Your healthcare provider may suggest one or more of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to help you think better or to slow the death of brain cells. You may also need medicines to help you feel less depressed, anxious, angry, or restless. These medicines can also help you sleep better. Medicines can also help with bladder and bowel control or to control delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations.
  • Counseling can be used to teach you ways to cope with your AD. It may be done one-on-one with a healthcare provider or may include family members or other persons with AD. Talk therapy may help you talk about your feelings and learn to control your actions and emotions. Stimulation therapy can help keep your mind active. Healthcare providers may use music, art, or animals in this type of therapy.

Further information

  • Alzheimer's Association
    225 N.Michigan Ave, FL 17
    Chicago , IL 60601-7633
    Phone: 1- 800 - 272-3900
    Web Address:
  • Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center
    P.O. Box 8250
    Silver Spring , MD 20907
    P.O. Box 8250
    Silver Spring , MD 20907
    Phone: 1- 800 - 4384380
    Web Address:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have a rash or your skin is itchy and swollen.
  • You are depressed and have difficulty coping with your symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.