The Doctor is in: Dementia: Alzheimer’s or something else? - The Explorer: The Doctor Is In

The Doctor is in: Dementia: Alzheimer’s or something else?

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Moeen Din, M.D.

Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 4:00 am

More than 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease – and the numbers are growing. While there is no known cure, research is revealing that a healthy lifestyle and early treatment can possibly delay the onset of major symptoms. 

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 50 to 80 percent of all cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Typically, Alzheimer’s develops after age 65 – 1 in 8 senior adults have Alzheimer’s disease – with an average age of 75 for the onset of the disease. However, up to 5 percent of patients have an early-onset form of the disease. 

Last year, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute of Aging issued new guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, to improve diagnosis, identify brain changes associated with the disease, and promote research to support earlier detection, diagnosis and treatment. 

The guidelines identify three stages of the disease: pre-symptomatic (before outward symptoms are visible); mild cognitive impairment (MCI) (mild memory and thinking changes that are noticeable, but not debilitating); and dementia, or full-blown Alzheimer’s disease. The significance of the guidelines is the focus on early identification and symptoms management. 

MCI and Alzheimer’s disease are not the same condition, although some Alzheimer’s patients may first experience MCI in the early stages of the disease process. However, some people are diagnosed with MCI and never progress to Alzheimer’s. Research is underway to develop diagnostic tests, such as blood tests and screening methods, to identify the type of MCI that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. 

The new criteria expand the definition of Alzheimer’s to include some forms of MCI, and also distinguish MCI from Alzheimer’s disease, based on an individual’s level of successfully performing certain daily activities. Data show that the brain of a person affected with Alzheimer’s disease begins to change more than a decade before noticeable symptoms develop. Health experts are now exploring the benefit of early treatment, from lifestyle changes to drug therapy. 

Researchers stress that memory and thinking problems associated with MCI are not a normal part of aging. Recognizing the cognitive changes could be the key to early detection and intervention for those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Historically, MCI has been used to describe mild forgetfulness and decreased memory skills. It is now known that MCI affects other aspects of thought processing and can disrupt the ability to perform everyday tasks, such as shopping and bill paying. Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, include memory loss, language problems, personality changes, disorientation and confusion, lack of hygiene, and odd behavior. 

While Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease with no known cure, certain lifestyle changes may delay the onset and severity of symptoms: regular exercise, a nutritious diet, quitting smoking and keeping blood pressure within healthy limits, and activities that stimulate the mind, such as crossword puzzles and word games. 

Medications have not demonstrated the capability to change the course of MCI or Alzheimer’s disease, but can serve as temporary treatment to stabilize patients for several years and delay the onset of more severe symptoms. 

Most importantly, early diagnosis can also help caregivers by providing education, counseling and support, enabling families to keep a loved one with Alzheimer’s at home longer, as well as make long-term decisions about healthcare and family activities.

If you are concerned about Alzheimer’s disease or MCI, talk with your doctor. Diagnosis involves a thorough medical evaluation, including a complete medical history, mental status testing, physical and neurological exam, and tests (such as blood tests and brain imaging) to rule out other causes of dementia-like symptoms.

(Editor’s Note: Moeen Din, M.D. is a neurologist practicing with Northwest Allied Physicians.  His office may be reached at 229-2578 or mytucsondoc.com.)

© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Welcome to the discussion.

Kino College

Kino CollegeEnroll today: http://www.kinocollege.com/

Wednesday 08/21/2013

The Doctor Is In: Give your baby a healthy start

Wednesday 07/17/2013

The Doctor Is In: Feeling Restless? It might not be “in your head”

Wednesday 06/05/2013

The Doctor Is In: Start early to prevent heart disease

Wednesday 05/01/2013

The Doctor Is In: It’s never too late to start taking care of your bones and joints

Wednesday 03/20/2013

The Doctor Is In: Colorectral cancer: Screening is the key

Wednesday 03/06/2013

The Doctor Is In: Diagnosing your heart health

Friday 02/22/2013

The Dentist is in: The work to make smiles brighter

Wednesday 01/23/2013

The Doctor Is In: Understanding food allergies in an active lifestyle

Wednesday 01/16/2013

The Dentist Is In: Why do I have bad breath? The Doctor Is In: The connection between psoriasis and arthritis

Wednesday 12/26/2012

The Doctor is In - Steps to overcoming infertility

Wednesday 12/19/2012

The Dentist Is In: The connection between the health of your mouth and the health of your body

Wednesday 11/21/2012

The Dentist Is In: A broken tooth can ruin any good meal The Doctor Is In: ’Tis the Season - How to keep off the extra pounds

Wednesday 11/14/2012

The Doctor Is In: Endometriosis: The pain is treatable if the disease is correctly diagnosed

Tuesday 11/06/2012

The Doctor Is In: Play it smart - Sports physicals can save lives

Wednesday 10/31/2012

The Doctor Is In: Advice: Breast cancer screening saves lives

Wednesday 10/10/2012

The Doctor is in: Dementia: Alzheimer’s or something else?

Wednesday 09/19/2012

The Doctor Is In: The West Nile Virus, precautions advised

Wednesday 09/05/2012

The Doctor Is In: Arthritis can strike any age

Wednesday 08/29/2012

The Doctor is in: Controlling varicose veins

Tuesday 08/14/2012

The Doctor Is In - Chronic stress can lead to chronic health conditions

Wednesday 08/08/2012

The Doctor Is In: COPD - It is preventable

Wednesday 08/01/2012

The Doctor Is In: Weight-loss surgery sheds pounds, improves health

Wednesday 07/25/2012

The Doctor is In: What to do when the wounds just won’t heal

Wednesday 07/18/2012

The doctor is in: Sleep: Good health is related to quality and quantity of slumber

Wednesday 06/27/2012

The Doctor Is In: Women living with endometriosis

Wednesday 06/13/2012

The Doctor Is In: Arthritis: Common types and treatments

Wednesday 06/06/2012

The Doctor Is In: Summer safety is important

Wednesday 05/09/2012

The Doctor Is In - How to understand your food allergies

Wednesday 05/02/2012

The Doctor Is In - Preventing cancer starts with the annual Pap test

Wednesday 04/11/2012

The Doctor Is In - How to help your kids avoid Type 2 Diabetes

Wednesday 04/04/2012

The Doctor is in: Leg pain signals heart trouble

Wednesday 03/14/2012

The Doctor Is In - Hit the hay for heart health

Wednesday 03/07/2012

The Doctor Is In: Getting headaches regularly? Is it time to see a doctor?

Wednesday 02/29/2012

The Doctor Is In - ADHD - Can the disorder be treated without medication?

Wednesday 02/22/2012

The Doctor Is In - Vitamin C: What it does, why you need it, where to find it

Wednesday 02/08/2012

The Doctor Is In - Depression: Don’t dismiss the blues

Wednesday 01/04/2012

The Doctor is In - Prediabetes: Obesity and diabetes share common risks and solutions

Wednesday 12/28/2011

The Doctor is In: Cold or allergy? How to tell the difference

Wednesday 12/21/2011

The Doctor is In: Steering kids away from salt

Wednesday 12/14/2011

The Doctor is In - Information on Childhood obesity

Friday 12/02/2011

The Doctor Is In - Don’t Be Down for the Count this Year: Cold and Flu Facts
Spacer4px

Follow us on Facebook

Online poll

Loading…