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Alzheimers - Symptoms & Problems

Updated on June 7, 2020
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Alzheimer's Memory March

source AL
source AL

Problems of Alzheimer's Disease

Approximately 70% of the people with dementia have Alzheimer's disease which affects memory, thinking and behavior. This is one form of dementia that gets worse and worse over time.

Alzheimer's disease is classified under cortical dementia, which means there is brain damage primarily affecting the brain cortex or outer layer. It causes memory impairment, thinking problems, problems with language, decision-making ability, judgment, and personality are necessary features for this diagnosis.

November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month

There are 16 million people with Alzheimer's disease in the world and 4.5 million of them are Americans. Each person with Alzheimer's has at least one caregiver and many other people are involved in their disease, such as social workers, doctors,volunteers and support workers and host of other people may be directly or indirectly involved in their care.

November is Alzheimer's awareness month and their color is purple. This is when they do the memory-walk to try to raise money to find a cure.

Causes and Risk factors

Age and family history are the primary risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, and the older you get the greater your chance of developing the disease. Having a close blood relative that has or had the disease puts you at higher risk. Also, having a certain combination of genes for proteins that appear to be abnormal in Alzheimer's disease increases your risk. There is a blood test you can get to find out if you have this combination.

The risk of Alzheimer's appears to increase as a result of several different conditions that damage the heart or blood vessels. The things to be concerned with our high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol.

There are two types of Alzheimer's disease, one called early-onset and the other is late onset. In the early onset, symptoms appear before age 60 and they are less acute; the late onset tends to progress more rapidly. In late onset the development of the disease happens after age 60 or older and the genetic role is less clear.

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Brain Abnormalities of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease has two abnormalities in the brain: amyloid plaques and neurofiibrillary tangles. Yet, the only way to know for certain if someone has Alzheimer's disease is to examine a sample of their brain tissue after death.

The plaques are found in the tissue between the nerve cells and are usually clumps of a protein called beta amyloid along with the generating bits of neurons and other cells. The tangles are bundles of twisted filaments found within the neurons made up primarily of a protein called tau. How all this works is very complex and researchers don't know if the amyloid plaques and neurolfibrillary tangles are harmful or are they merely a side effect.

How Alzheimer's Affects Brain

Progression of Alzheimer's Symptoms

Dementia symptoms usually first appear as forgetfulness. As the disease progresses it causes difficulty with many areas of mental functioning including language, memory, perception, emotional behavior or personality, and cognitive skills (such as calculation, abstract thinking or judgment).

According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health these are the symptoms to watch for in Alzheimer's disease. "The early symptoms of Alzheimer's is language problems such as trouble finding the name of familiar objects, misplacing items, getting lost unfamiliar routes, personality changes in loss of social skills, losing interest in things previously enjoyed, flat mood, difficulty performing task that takes some thought but used to come easily such as balancing the checkbook, playing complex games such as bridge or learning new information or routines."

As the symptoms become worse they interfere more and more with the patient's ability to take care of themselves.

Caregiver Questions

Caregivers and patients should ask their doctor the following questions about using these drugs:

  1. What are the potential side effects of the medicine and are they worth the risk, since there will likely be only a small change in behavior or function?
  2. When is the best time, if any, to use these drugs in the course of the disease?

Sometimes other medicines are needed to control aggression, agitation or dangerous behaviors but they are usually given in very low doses.

Many people take folate (vitamin B 9), vitamin B12, and vitamin E. There is no evidence that these vitamins will slow down the disease. Some people also believe that the herb ginkgo biloba slows the development of dementia, however, high-quality studies have failed to prove this. Do not use ginkgo biloba if you are taking any type of blood thinner.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When doctors try to diagnose a patient that they suspect has Alzheimer's they will do a thorough history and physical and make sure the patient doesn't have thyroid disease, vitamin deficiency, brain tumor, stroke, intoxication for medication, chronic infection, anemia or severe depression. They will do a CAT scan to look for other causes of dementia such as a brain tumor or stroke.

Unfortunately there's no cure for Alzheimer's disease. The earlier the disease is diagnosed the better it can be treated. Doctors will attempt to slow the disease, which is difficult to do and manage behavior problems, such as, confusion, sleep problems and agitation. Families should modify their home environment as necessary and caregivers need a lot of support from other family members.

Your local Alzheimer's Association Chapter can connect you with many resources that will help you cope with the challenges of this disease. They also have an eight week educational course called EASE. There is also the Wanderers ID program which gives your patient a GPS tracking deviceto be worn in case they wander off. This is worn as a watch and it also has a separate clip on pager.

Drug treatment for these patients has been mostly unsuccessful, as sometimes symptoms even become worse, but they are given in hopes they can slow the progress of the disease. There are 2 types of medications that available:

  • Donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon) and galantamine (Razadyne) which affects the level of a chemical in the brain called see the acetylcholine. Side effects include indigestion, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and fatigue.
  • Memantine (Namenda) is the other drug approved for treating patients with Alzheimer's disease. Possible side effects include agitation or anxiety.

Alzheimer Association

If you need more information about Alzheimer's diseases call the Alzheimer Association helpline 1-800-272-3900, available 24/7. There website also has a wealth of information.

Research and Prevention Guide

The first study for Alzheimer's was started in 1982, but it's really over the last 15 years that scientists have made enormous strides in understanding the disease. At this time medication just treats the symptoms and not the disease itself which means the damage to the brain cells continues.

Currently there is a lot of research happening to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. One research project, the Gap Study, is using Intravenous Immune Globulin (IVIg) which may act on some of the underlying causes of Alzheimer's, instead of just on the symptoms. In this study patients are continuing to take their current medications in addition to the Immune Globulin. There are several sites around the country where they're conducting this study and the participant must have a study partner working with them which I presume would be their caretaker.

The first international collaboration on Alzheimer's disease genetics was launched this month on February 1. This collaborative effort spans universities in both England and the United States and plans to combine the knowledge, staff and resources of consortia that conduct research on Alzheimer's disease genetics. The European Alzheimer's Disease Initiative and of France is a part of this effort.This is very exciting research as they will work to identify the genes that contribute to risk and progression of the disease, as well as, attempting to identify the proteins and other targets for drug development.

Even though there's no way to prevent Alzheimer's disease there are some daily practices that might be worth incorporating into your routine, particularly if you have a family history with dementia. The suggestions are ones we have already heard of for the most part for healthy living. They include consuming a low-fat diet, eat cold water fish at least 2 to 3 times a week, reduce your intake of not linoleic acid which is found in margarine, butter and dairy products, maintain a normal blood pressure and stay mentally and socially active throughout your life.

My personal advice would be to live each day like it might be your last, enjoy life, smile and laugh and don't take yourself too seriously.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    healthwriterbob, Thank you for adding your comment. I agree that this illness certainly needs to be cured. It is such a heartbreaking disease. I appreciate your comment.

  • healthwriterbob profile image


    8 years ago from United States

    Hi Pamela99

    I enjoyed your article on Alzheimer's disease. You gave a nice discussion of the beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles found in the brains of people with AD. I have read some research that suggests that the plaques lead to the production of free radicals and that the resulting oxidative stress may cause damage to the nerve cells in the brain. We desperately need effective treatments that can stop the disease from progressing. I left some feedback and voted up your article.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    ChristineVianello, I know that's a difficult job for your mother. Thank you so much for your comments

  • ChristineVianello profile image


    9 years ago from Philadelphia

    My grandfather has dementia. My mother takes care of him as much as she can. It can get difficult for her, it's a lot of medication and a struggle. I liked your hub was very well written.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Micky Dee, Yes, I know it hurts and sorry you had the experience. Thanks for your comment. God Bless you also.

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 

    9 years ago

    I've spent some time around this and it hurts all involved. God bless you Pam.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Susan, I think I might make the same decision and I would do everything that I could to prevent the disease. Hopefully there will be more and more information is the research grows. Let me know how your test turns out and say little prayer for you.

  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 

    9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Pamela Back again just to let you know that because of reading your hub and my father having this disease I started thinking of having the test done to see if I have the gene for Alzheimer's. My husband does not want me to have it done but I want to know. So my next trip to the doctors I will inquire about it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    DIY, It truly is a horrible way to die. I have been reading about a lot of research lately and sure hope the answers happen soon. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • DIYweddingplanner profile image


    9 years ago from South Carolina, USA

    Thank you for this. We lost my father two years ago to this disease and not a day goes by that I don't think of him and wonder why we can't do more to halt this terrible, disrespectful way to die.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    crystolite, Thank you so much for your comment.

  • crystolite profile image


    9 years ago from Houston TX

    Nice hub on Alzheimer disease,its really informative.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Linda, Thank you so much for your lovely comments and obviously you know only too well how important it is that scientists find a cure for this disease.

    Ashlie, I appreciate your comments very much in degree it certainly is a sad disease

  • AskAshlie3433 profile image


    9 years ago from WEST VIRGINIA

    Hey there Pamela. Great hub. Hope all is well. Such a sad disease. This is why we must start living today, not later. We just never know.

  • lindatymensky profile image


    9 years ago

    This is a beautifully written and researched hub. I know from experience the hell of this disease. Thanks for casting some light on the subject.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Audry, I sure do too. I appreciate your comments.

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    9 years ago from Washington

    I know they've come a long way but still so far to go - what a terribly crippling disease that strikes so many people before their time. Hoping one of these days we find some answers!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    BobbiRant, You make a very good point I appreciate your comment very much.

  • BobbiRant profile image


    9 years ago from New York

    Yes, medical science has given us many strides in living longer, but with it, there is the ever cropping up of diseases they have no clue how to cure nor even slow down. It's a two edged sword. We have not lived long enough in other generations for medical science to keep up with what living longer can really mean. Great hub concerning this awful disease.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    coffeesnob, I feel the same way. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    I can only think of the tragedy for all, but indeed especially for the caretakers

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Prasetio, I hope you never see this disease. Thank you for your comments.

  • prasetio30 profile image


    9 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Great information from you, Pamela. Thanks for share with us though I never see in person kind of this disease around me. But I'll bookmark this hub. Vote up as usual. Have a nice weekend.


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Darski, I have been concerned about you since you were off line for so long. I am glad you are better now. I think everyone has some fear about these diseases. Thanks for the comments. Love and Peace to you.

    Dusty, You are a walking miracle since you were out hunting while having a major heart attack. Other than the blood test for those proteins there is no way to know about dementia diseases, I wish that were different too. Thanks for your input. God Bless.

  • 50 Caliber profile image

    50 Caliber 

    9 years ago from Arizona

    Pamela, great information on a topic I regard as important to recognize as heart attacks and strokes, especially if one lives alone. Knowing the signs and keeping ones mind open, that it can happen to ones self. I recognized my heart attack while hunting quail and the guys I was with actually made contact with an ambulance returning from a run back to Tucson, it had a pacer on board and the EMT that was up on using it as well as seeing the need to hook it up. It kept me alive by keeping the motor running and the medical center had a cardiologist on the floor as I arrived, they were cutting my clothes off while inserting air ways and I sorta faded away waking up 14 or 15 days later from an induced coma, a healing period I think it was termed. I have a ticking mechanical valve and a mini pacer with battery/controls under each collar bone. It was knowing and action that was key. I wish there was that type of knowledge and action for Alzheimer's disease. voted up, peace dusty

  • Darlene Sabella profile image

    Darlene Sabella 

    9 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

    Hi Pam, glad to be back from my flu, and now I have time to read your excellent hub, and so scary. I believe many of us fear this to some degree, my family history is mainly unclear, however they all have something different and I will be the one that get each one...this is a serious matter, and a sad situation. I rate this hub up up and thank you love & peace darski

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Eiddwen, I agree with you. I think it is terribly difficult for the loved ones. Thanks for sharing your experience and your comments.

    ImChemist, Thank you so much for your comment.

    BlissfulWriter, That is great that you are participating in their Memory Walk and they do need as much support as possible. Thanks for your comments.

    Susan, I appreciate your comment.

  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 

    9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Very informative hub Pamela.

  • BlissfulWriter profile image


    9 years ago

    I think we need to support the Alzheiermer Association in its search for a cure. That is why I had participated in their "Memory Walk" fundraiser (which occurs every year).

  • ImChemist profile image


    9 years ago

    Thanks Pamela99 for sharing this information , that i rated it useful.

  • Eiddwen profile image


    9 years ago from Wales

    Hi Pamela,

    You've made a brilliant job on this hub. So much information that's easy to read and will be so beneficial to many who have relatives/friends suffering from this degrading and very sad illness.

    I always say though that the ones looking on are feeling it much harder than the actual patient.

    I remember talking to a lady not long ago whose parents had been married for nearly fifty years.

    Her mum suffered from this condition and one day she didn't recognise her husband .

    When he told "I'm your husband." She turned round to him and replied;

    "Don't be so silly my mother would never have let me marry someone as old as you!!"

    As this lady then said , "We have to laugh with them or we would end up breaking down!"

    Thank you for sharing this one Pamela , I'm sure many will find it so useful.

    Take care


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    katerinasui, Thank you so much for your comments.

  • katrinasui profile image


    9 years ago

    Thanks for writing a hub about this disease. I am sure that many people have no idea about this disease.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Anginwu, Thanks for the information on curry powder. I appreciate your comments.

    Will, I'd like to know the answer to that question also. Some diseases are caused at least partially by a person's lifestyle, but this disease isn't like that. It deserves better funding. I'm sorry to hear about your father, Thanks for your comment.

  • WillStarr profile image


    9 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    Dad had it for years before we knew why he had changed so drastically.

    What I want to know is why we spend so much on diseases we know how to prevent and so little on this when we don't even know what causes it.

  • anglnwu profile image


    9 years ago

    Very informative, as usual. They say curry powder can help prevent Alzheimer's too. rated up.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Katie, Thank you so much for such a nice comment. I agree that I wish God would just stop this disease with all this research that is being done. Thank you so much. God Bless.

    KKGals, I can't even imagine how awful that would be. My father had some dementia in his last year which was mainly some confusion particularly at night. Thanks so much for sharing your comments.

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Hazelton 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Pamela, thanks for writing this article. My father had Alzheimers. It is a horrible thing to watch the confusing and frustration of someone you love as they secumb to this disease.

  • katiem2 profile image

    Katie McMurray 

    9 years ago from Westerville

    Oh my God Bless and keep each and every soul suffering from this disease. Great report on Alzheimer's Disease Affects Memory,Thinking and Behavior.

    It's amazing to have you a trusted writer to deliver such vital details. Thanks, Katie

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    DiamondRN, That it's really an amazing story. Thanks so much for sharing and your comments.

    Sandy, I know it is a horrible thing to live with them so hard on the family. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Bail Up, I have heard so many sad stories similar to yours. It really is heartbreaking to have a loved one's life in that way. Thanks for your comments.

    Hello, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and thank you so much for your comment.

    Hanna, I sure hope that's true and I think they are learning more through research about preventative treatment. I appreciate your comments.

  • HealthyHanna profile image


    9 years ago from Utah

    Alzheimers runs in my family. This hub was very well researched and summarized. Thanks. Alzhemiers is one reason I am so interested in health. I have found a few things that I think are going to help me avoid it. (cross my fingers)

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    9 years ago from London, UK

    Thank, Pamela for such a detailed hub. An ingteresting read.

  • Bail Up ! profile image

    Bail Up ! 

    9 years ago

    Watching a loved one with Alzheimers gradually deteriorate is extremely sad. My grandmother has convinced herself she can no longer walk although doctors say physically there is nothing preventing her from doing so. She just forgot how. Pretty sad.

  • Sandyspider profile image

    Sandy Mertens 

    9 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

    My father-in-law had Alzheimer Disease. It is a horrible thing to live with.

  • DiamondRN profile image

    Bob Diamond RPh 

    9 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

    My step-mother was an RN. She did such a good job of covering up that she had Alzheimer's and it was so severe that she died within 6 months of her diagnosis.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    My Digest, Yes, I agree it is scary. Thank you for your comments.

  • My Digest profile image

    My Digest 

    9 years ago

    Alzheimers disease seems to be a scary thing to happen to anyone. Thanks for writing about this.



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