Most frequently asked questions - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather

Most frequently asked questions

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What tests are done to determine if it's Alzheimers?
Right now the only way to positively diagnose Alzheimer's Disease is through a brain autopsy.  While the patient is alive, physicians can correctly diagnose Alzheimer's based on mental and behavorial symptoms, a phyusical examination, neuropychological test, and lab tests.

The physician takes a history or mental and behavioral symptoms, using information provided by patient and the family.  In nearly 75% of the cases, Alzheimer's starts with the inability to remember recent events and to learn and retain new information. 

At specialized centers, doctors can diagnose possible or probably Alzheimer's up to 90% of the time.

What treatments are available?
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Many research programs, however, are pursuing promising studies focused on halting or preventing the disease process completely. For those who are currently suffering from AD, there are medications that can help control symptoms of the disease. In addition, medication treatments are also available to help manage agitation, depression, or psychotic symptoms (hallucinations or delusions), which may occur as the disease progresses. Are memory problems and indication of Alzheimer's?

Is Alzheimer's hereditary?
Familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD) is a rare form of the disease, affecting less than 10 percent of Alzheimer's disease patients. All FAD is early-onset, meaning the disease develops before age 65. It is caused by gene mutations on chromosomes 1, 14, and 21. Even if one of these mutated genes is inherited from a parent, the person will almost always develop early-onset Alzheimer's disease. All offspring in the same generation have a 50/50 chance of developing FAD if one of their parents had it.

The majority of Alzheimer's disease cases are late-onset, usually developing after age 65. Late-onset Alzheimer's disease has no known cause and shows no obvious inheritance pattern. However, in some families, clusters of cases are seen. Although a specific gene has not been identified as the cause of late-onset Alzheimer's disease, genetic factors do appear to play a role in the development of this form of the disease. The ApoE gene on chromosome 19 has three forms-ApoE2, ApoE3 and ApoE4. Studies have shown that people who inherit the E4 version of the gene are more likely to develop the late-onset form of Alzheimer's disease. Scientists estimate that an additional four to seven genes influence the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease. Two of these genes are UBQLN1 and SORL1, which are located on chromosomes 9 and 11, respectively.

Genetic risk factors alone are not enough to cause the late-onset form of Alzheimer's disease, so researchers are actively exploring education, diet, and environment to learn what role they might play in the development of this disease.

What are the stages of Alzheimer's disease?
There are three general stages of Alzheimer's disease:

Stage 1: Early in the illness, Alzheimer's patients tend to have less energy and spontaneity, though often no one notices anything unusual. They exhibit minor memory loss and mood swings, and are slow to learn and react. After a while they start to shy away from anything new and prefer the familiar. Memory loss begins to affect job performance. The patient is confused, gets lost easily, and exercises poor judgment.

Stage 2: In this stage, the Alzheimer's victim can still perform tasks independently, but may need assistance with more complicated activities. Speech and understanding become slower, and patients often lose their train of thought in mid-sentence. They may also get lost while traveling or forget to pay bills. As Alzheimer's victims become aware of this loss of control, they may become depressed, irritable an restless. The individual is clearly becoming disabled. The distant past may be recalled, while recent events are more difficult to remember. Advancing Alzheimer's has affected the victim's ability to comprehend where they are, the day and the time. Caregivers must give clear instructions and repeat them often. As the Alzheimer's victim's mind continues to slip away, the patient may invent words and not recognize familiar faces.

Stage 3: During the final stage, patients lose the ability to chew and swallow. The very essence of the person is vanishing. Memory is now very poor and no one is recognizable. Patients lose bowel and bladder control, and eventually need constant care. They become vulnerable to pneumonia, infection and other illnesses. Respiratory problems worsen, particularly when the patient becomes bedridden. This terminal stage eventually leads to death.

Who should I see if I suspect Alzheimer's?
First, go to your regular family physician. The physician will probably do a variety of tests to determine if you have probable Alzheimer's. Neurologists, gerontologists, and geriatric psychiatrists may also become part of the patient's treatment team.


How long does Alzheimer's last and is it terminal?
On average, patients with Alzheimer's disease live for 8 to 10 years after they are diagnosed. It can last as long as 20 years, and always ends in death.

What do I take to the doctor?
Bring any medical records you have and a list of the medicines you are currently taking to your first visit. If you don't know the names of the drugs, bring the pill bottles with you. A medication or a combination of medications can sometimes cause symptoms that resemble Alzheimer's disease. It's a good idea to make a list of symptoms or behaviors in yourself or your loved one that you're concerned about and give it to your doctor.

Can I find out if I have a predisposition for Alzheimer's
A blood test is available to identify which ApoE alleles a person has, because apolipoprotein is associated with an already well-studied condition, heart disease. However, this blood test cannot tell people whether they will develop Alzheimer's or when. Although some people want to know whether they will get Alzheimer's disease later in life, this type of prediction is not yet possible. In fact, some researchers believe that apoE tests or other screening measures may never be able to predict Alzheimer's with 100% accuracy


Source:  Some information contained on this page is courtesy AHAF Home

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