According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. It is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 50-80 percent. Dr. Aamer Habib, MD is a neurologist for McFarland Clinic. He works with patients daily on the treatment and management of their Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
"We diagnose Alzheimer’s clinically. Most of the time family members and friends notice changes in a loved one," said Dr. Habib. These changes can include:
- Short term memory problems
- Trouble with language, i.e., difficulty coming up with words
- Personality changes, i.e., getting angry easily, paranoid behavior, etc.
- Problems with activity of daily living
There is not a single test to diagnose Alzheimer’s. "Usually tests are done to rule out some treatable causes of dementia," said Dr. Habib, "These include vascular, infectious, structural or metabolic causes including vitamin deficiency, hypothyroidism, stroke, brain tumor, hydrocephalus and others."
The disease affects both male and females. "Onset is usually after age 60, with 10 percent of people over age 65 having Alzheimer’s," stated Dr. Habib.
Initially patients have memory loss and confusion which sometimes can be attributed to the normal aging process. "Later on the patient will gradually develop behavioral problems and personality changes with a decline in language skills and decision making," said Dr. Habib, "The course of the disease varies from person to person."
Alzheimer’s cannot be cured however; it can be managed and treated. Early diagnosis often offers advantages to families and patients. Being a degenerative disorder of the brain, Alzheimer’s involves nerve cells in the brain dying over time. This then causes many areas of the brain to shrink and lose function. Hence, a person with Alzheimer’s has a steady loss of memory and other cognitive skills, eventually losing independence.
"Currently there are no medications or treatments to stop or slow down the disease progression. However, there are four FDA approved medications that help patients carry out their activities of daily living," said Dr. Habib, "These medications help with memory, thinking process, and behavior and personality changes."
Dr. Habib recommends the following organizations to seek more information about Alzheimer’s:
- Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
For more information or to discuss Alzheimer’s Dementia with Dr. Habib, please contact the McFarland Clinic Neurology Department at (712) 792-1500.