Alzheimer's Disease | Neurology & Neurosurgery | Loyola Medicine

Alzheimer’s Disease

Comprehensive Approach to Diagnose and Manage Alzheimer’s Disease

Loyola Medicine offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than 5 million Americans. 

While the number of Alzheimer’s cases continues to grow, it is not a normal part of aging. It is a progressive neurological disease in which nerve cells in the brain lose the ability to send signals to each other. It leads to a slow decline in thinking, memory and reasoning skills. 

If you believe that you or a loved one may have Alzheimer’s, you want to have the correct diagnosis as soon as possible. Loyola’s compassionate team will guide you through diagnosis, treatment and beyond.

Why Choose Loyola for Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Doctors at Loyola recognize that Alzheimer’s disease affects patients and their families. Loyola takes a multidisciplinary approach to patient care and provides support services for patients and families. Our neurology and neurosurgery services are nationally recognized. As an academic medical center, Loyola provides compassionate, exceptional care to patients and trains future leaders in neurology and neurosurgery. 

Loyola’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorder Center is a primary care provider for Alzheimer’s patients for the state of Illinois and accepts referrals from doctors and national and local Alzheimer’s disease associations. In addition, Loyola’s neuro intensive care unit is staffed by trained neurology nurses, who have earned Magnet status.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

There are two types of Alzheimer’s: early onset and late onset. Early onset symptoms appear before age 60, and several genes have been linked with it. Late onset is much more common and occurs after age 60. Though Alzheimer’s may be inherited, the genetic role is still not clear. The cause for Alzheimer’s is not known, but research shows that you are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s if you:

  • Are over 65
  • Have a close relative with Alzheimer’s (brother, sister, parent)
  • Have genes known to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s

Other risk factors include:

  • A history of high blood cholesterol levels that led to heart and vascular problems
  • Being female
  • Past head injury

Talk with your primary care physician if you notice:

  • Challenges finishing familiar tasks at work, home or during leisure activities
  • Confusion with passage of time or location, such as not being aware of what year it is or getting lost on familiar streets
  • Gait abnormality
  • Increasingly poor judgment in decision-making
  • Memory loss that interferes with daily activities, such as trouble remembering words or using the wrong word
  • Mild cognitive impairment leading to difficulty in solving problems, planning or concentrating
  • Misplacing items and not being able to retrace steps
  • Problems with perceiving distance or depth of field, such as misjudging distance while driving
  • Recent writing or speech problems
  • Social isolation, withdrawing from work or social activities
  • Sudden mood swings or personality changes, such as agitation or a tendency to be more paranoid

How is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?

Doctors arrive at a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s through tests that eliminate other possible causes for your recent symptoms. Medical conditions with symptoms that may mimic Alzheimer’s include:

  • Alcoholism-related malnutrition
  • Brain tumor
  • Depression
  • Hydrocephalus (extra cerebrospinal fluid around the brain)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Subdural hematoma (blood clots due to bruising in lining surrounding brain)
  • Thyroid disease
  • Toxic reaction to drugs
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency

To eliminate other possibilities, your Loyola doctor will:

  • Administer a mental function test
  • Ask you about your medical history and symptoms
  • Complete a physical exam
  • Complete a neurological exam
  • Order a CT scan (computed tomography)
  • Order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Order blood tests

What are the Treatment Options for Alzheimer’s Disease?

There are prescription and non-prescription treatments that ease the behavioral and cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The goals of treatment are to:

  • Slow progression of the disease through medication and brain-stimulating activities
  • Manage symptoms, including confusion, behavior problems and trouble sleeping
  • Evaluate or change home environment to make daily activities easier
  • Support family members and other caregivers

Beyond state-of-the art technology and the latest drugs, Loyola’s doctors and staff emphasize the importance of developing personal relationships with patients and their families. Providing social support, education and resource guidance are key elements of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorder Center at Loyola. 

Ongoing Research and Clinical Trials for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

As an academic medical center, Loyola Medicine is dedicated to improving future treatments by conducting research on new medications and protocols. Loyola’s patients benefit from our research discoveries; read about Loyola’s current clinical trials.