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Treatment Neurology & Neurosurgery

Alzheimer's Disease

Several medications are approved to manage the disease or slow the rate of decline. Some patients improve with medication and experience a temporary improvement soon after taking medication, but the period of improvement and stability varies. Despite treatment, it appears that Alzheimer's disease progresses in the long term.

In addition to drugs, an aerobic and weight-bearing exercise regimen may increase energy levels, reduce apathy and improve the overall sense of well-being. Since lack of motivation can be a problem, a personal trainer can be helpful to ensure participation in an exercise program.

One treatment that holds promise for the future is a vaccine that targets the beta-amyloid protein. Research on the vaccine in mice has been encouraging. Studies involving humans are in the early stages.

Health care professionals, with increasingly sensitive diagnostic skills, are using advanced imaging and medical technology to identify specific dementia disorders. This improves and expands the options for treatment.

A reversible form of dementia is detected in 10 to 20 percent of suspected Alzheimer's disease cases. These conditions are most often caused by electrolyte imbalances, thyroid disorders, trauma to the head, vitamin deficiencies, psychiatric conditions such as severe depression, medications such as Valium, or alcohol and drug abuse.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease can be physically and emotionally challenging. Often, the caregiver assumes tasks such as household finances and cooking that were previously shared or the responsibility of the patient. Progressive loss of memory can impair recognition of family members, which leads to emotional detachment and separation.

A wide range of support services are available for dementia patients and their caregivers.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

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