Is It Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease…or Just Forgetfulness?

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Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

We all have moments of forgetting things, but when is it time to be concerned that a loved one’s forgetfulness is turning into something more?

“The number one sign for Alzheimer’s/dementia is the gradual, insidious progression of cognitive loss,” says Dr. John Webb, lead physician in Neurology at St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “Initially, this is characterized by short-term memory loss, such as difficulty naming things and people or forgetting words.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that worsens over time, whereas dementia can slowly show more symptoms or increasingly severe symptoms over a period of years. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.

Age: the biggest Alzheimer’s/dementia risk factor

Age remains the most significant risk factor in Alzheimer’s disease, as most Alzheimer’s patients are 65 years old or older. However, there are a number of patients diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s every year. Scientists and physicians are studying if there is a genetic link that increases a patient’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s at any age.

Additional risk factors for Alzheimer’s/dementia include:

  • History of stroke
  • Heavy alcohol use in the past
  • Risk factors from cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases – hypertension, hyperlipidemia and obesity)
  • History of head trauma
  • Physical inactivity
  • Depression
  • Underlying kidney disease

A collaborative approach to care

At St. Elizabeth Healthcare, we are focused on providing proactive, comprehensive care to our dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.

“We like to collaborate with all of the patient’s other providers, including their primary care physician,” says Dr. Webb. “This helps us ensure proper care as it relates to the patient’s underlying diagnosis of Alzheimer’s/dementia. We also utilize electronic medical records for real-time communication about a patient’s specific needs.”

St. Elizabeth Neurology offers office evaluations, head imaging (CT scan on MRI), bloodwork or Neuropsychiatric testing for our patients. The diagnosis and treatment plan is customized based on each patient’s needs.

If you notice any of signs or symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in yourself or a loved one, Dr. Webb suggests scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician. The physician will evaluate you and determine if a referral to a neurologist is the appropriate next step.

Contact us for more information

The St. Elizabeth Neurology department can be reached at (859) 957-0052 for any questions or more information.