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Health Information Beyond Memory: Know Symptoms of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease has a variety of symptoms. You should know when to seek help.

It happens to all of us: forgetting where we put our car keys or forgetting that neighbor’s name. Memory lapses can become more common with age, but to some people, such lapses raise fears of Alzheimer’s disease. How do you know if you have a problem? 

While it’s normal to forget appointments, names or telephone numbers, those with dementia will forget such details more often and not remember them later, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. And it’s important to note that Alzheimer’s goes beyond memory, says Martin J. Gorbien, MD, Rush’s director of geriatric medicine. The disease affects how we think. It can interfere with our ability to learn, reason and communicate.

Is it Alzheimer’s?

“Along with memory loss, people may present with other symptoms,” Gorbien says. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these may include:

  • Being notably apathetic or passive or showing loss of initiative; sitting for hours in front of the television, for instance, or sleeping more than usual
  • Having problems doing simple and familiar things, such as using an appliance
  • Forgetting simple words or using words incorrectly
  • Being disoriented
  • Showing poor judgment
  • Having problems with abstract thinking
  • Having difficulty with language
  • Misplacing things
  • Going through rapid mood swings or changes in personality

Noting such symptoms is important, Gorbien says, because early evaluation of Alzheimer’s benefits both patients and their families. “We want to make sure we get patients started with treatment and families in touch with community resources and support groups,” he says.

Innovations in research

Starting with treatment as soon as possible is important because of continuing improvements in Alzheimer’s treatments. And Rush is on the leading edge of Alzheimer’s research.

At the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center (RADC) researchers are testing the safety of a new technique that uses an inactive virus to deliver nerve growth factor into regions of the brain where neurons degenerate. The goal: to prevent cell death and reverse the wasting away, or atrophy, of cells, two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

If proven safe for the patients in the trial who have mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, this could be a major step toward modifying the course of the disease. The RADC is one of 29 U.S. Alzheimer’s research facilities funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Investigators at the RADC, which is under the direction of David Bennett, MD, are also looking at the underlying causes of this disease as well as at foods and mental exercises that appear to protect the brain against it.

 

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