What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease damages the brain. It causes a steady loss of memory and of how well you can speak, think, and do your daily activities.
Alzheimer’s disease gets worse over time. Some people lose the ability to do daily activities in the first few years. Others may do fairly well until much later in the disease.
Mild memory loss is common in people older than 60. It may not mean that you have Alzheimer’s disease. But if your memory is getting worse, see your doctor.
What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease happens because of changes in the brain. Some of the symptoms may be related to a loss of chemical messengers in the brain, called neurotransmitters, that allow nerve cells in the brain to communicate properly.
People with Alzheimer’s disease have two things in the brain that are not normal: amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.
What are the symptoms?
For most people, the first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. Often the person who has a memory problem doesn’t notice it, but family and friends do.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s get worse slowly over time. You may:
- Have trouble making decisions.
- Be confused about what time and day it is.
- Get lost in places you know well.
- Have trouble learning and remembering new information.
- Have trouble finding the right words to say what you want to say.
- Have more trouble doing daily tasks like cooking a meal or paying bills.
How is Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your past health and do a physical exam. He or she may ask you to do some simple things that test your memory and other mental skills. Your doctor may also check how well you can do daily tasks.
The exam usually includes blood tests to look for another cause of your problems. You may have tests such as CT scans and MRI scans, which look at your brain.
How is Alzheimer’s Disease treated?
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But there are medicines that may slow symptoms down for a while and make the disease easier to live with.
As the disease gets worse, you may get depressed or angry and upset. The doctor may also prescribe medicines to help with these problems.