Definition: Alzheimer’s disease (AD), one form of dementia, is a progressive, degenerative brain disease. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.
Memory impairment is a necessary feature for the diagnosis of this or any type of dementia. Change in one of the following areas must also be present: language, decision-making ability, judgment, attention, and other areas of mental function and personality.
The rate of progression is different for each person. If AD develops rapidly, it is likely to continue to progress rapidly. If it has been slow to progress, it will likely continue on a slow course.
The first step in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is to establish that dementia is present. Then, the type of dementia should be clarified. A health care provider will take a history, do a physical exam (including a neurological exam), and perform a mental status examination.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for AD. The goals in treating AD are to:
- Slow the progression of the disease.
- Manage behavior problems, confusion, and agitation.
- Modify the home environment.
- Support family members and other caregivers.
In addition, early testing of a vaccine against AD is underway.