What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s Disease is an irreversible, progressive disorder that causes brain cells to degenerate. It is the most common cause of dementia, a continuous decline in cognitive ability. It leads to problems with memory, thinking, and behavior that can become severe enough to impair daily life. The diagnosis is a challenging one for patients and their families, and UTHealth Neurosciences is here to help provide comprehensive and compassionate care. Advances are being made regularly with the treatment and care of the estimated 5.5 million Americans 65 and older who have Alzheimer’s Disease.
What You Can Expect at UTHealth Neurosciences
At UTHealth Neurosciences, our dedicated team uses the latest technology to help accurately diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s patients. We work in multidisciplinary teams of specialists who share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.
Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease
While Alzheimer’s is age-related, it is not a normal part of aging. It is thought to be caused by changes in brain tissue, including increased amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that block communication among nerve cells. Neurons can’t survive when they lose their connections to each other. As neurons die, the corresponding area of the brain begins to degenerate, causing the memory loss.
Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
For the majority of people with the disease, symptoms appear after the age of 65. In rare cases, onset may be earlier. At first, a person may experience some slight confusion or memory loss, which may seem to be a normal part of aging. It may be difficult for a person with Alzheimer’s to remember a conversation or a recent event. People with Alzheimer’s may repeat the same statements, forget appointments, get lost in familiar places, or misplace their possessions. Difficulty concentrating and multitasking are also key symptoms of Alzheimer’s. A person might struggle to find the right words or display impaired judgment. Eventually, they may be unable to recognize their loved ones. Changes in personality and behavior are also common. An Alzheimer’s patient may become depressed, apathetic, or irritable. They may withdraw from social situations.
The patient or a close family member typically start the diagnostic process by self-reporting symptoms. UTHealth Neuroscience doctors have extensive experience evaluating for Alzheimer’s, assessing memory and thinking skills; conducting lab tests and brain imaging; and performing physical and neurological exams of reflexes, muscle tone, senses, problem solving, and coordination. This series of tests will assess memory and help to rule out other conditions.
While some people might be reluctant to go to their doctor with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, receiving an early diagnosis is beneficial and will give patients and their families a jump start on accessing helpful resources and treatments.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s has no cure, but the doctors at UTHealth Neurosciences have pioneered models of care to treat symptoms and improve quality of life for patients and their caregivers. A team that includes neurologists, geriatric psychologists, and social workers will develop a plan that may include education, counseling, medication, and behavioral modifications.
A few types of Alzheimer’s medications are currently being used to treat cognitive symptoms, including a cholinesterase inhibitor and memantine. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to help control behavioral symptoms. Our team of experts will also help navigate lifestyle and environment changes that may be helpful.
At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.