Alzheimer's Disease

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While everyone forgets things from time to time, Alzheimer's disease is characterized by an inability to learn, function or remember. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is a loss in mental abilities great enough to interfere with daily life. If you've just been diagnosed, or had a loved one diagnosed, you may be wondering what the future looks like. 

Though there's no cure for Alzheimer's there are ways to slow the progression and make life better. Alzheimer's disease is a condition that destroys brain cells. 

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA Health

There are no tests to confirm Alzheimer's. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam.

Tests to rule out other medical conditions may include:

  • Neurological exams
  • Psychological and mental status testing
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Blood tests and urine tests
  • Lumbar puncture 
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan 

Treating Alzheimer's at UVA Health

There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. Currently, four medicines are available to treat some of the symptoms. The goal is to find a medicine that can manage the symptoms or slow the condition's course.

Lifestyle Management

Managing the disease includes:

  • Creating an environment in which you can receive the care you need
  • Keeping your quality of life as high as possible
  • Keeping yourself safe
  • Helping yourself learn to deal with the frustration of your uncontrollable behavior
  • Providing a calm, quiet, predictable environment
  • Providing appropriate eyewear and hearing aids and easy-to-read clocks and calendars
  • Playing quiet music
  • Doing light, appropriate exercise to reduce agitation and relieve depression
  • Encouraging family and close friends to visit frequently

Psychiatric Medication

Psychiatric symptoms may occur with Alzheimer’s disease. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to treat:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion, paranoia and hallucinations