My 48-year-old brother died very recently and had previously expressed concern of having early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. There is a family history of both early- and late-onset forms of this brain disease in my family. An autopsy was performed on my brother and toxicology reports are still pending, but in our grief we neglected to request testing for Alzheimer's. Can tissue or blood samples taken during autopsy be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease? It has been two weeks since his death. Thank you for any information that you can provide. [ 09/18/12 ]
At 48, your brother was pretty young even for early-onset of Alzheimer's disease, so the autopsy results are understandably of interest. You may want to check whether brain tissue was saved, and whether it was properly prepared in order to diagnose Alzheimer's disease. It is possible that the diagnosis can be suggested by examination of the brain tissue, though the presence of clinical symptoms remains a necessity.
An MRI found 'white spots' on my brain, and I was diagnosed as having a cerebral-cardiac risk. Could this in any way be a precursor of Alzheimer's disease? [ 09/18/12 ]
“White spots” most likely represent changes in the small blood vessels that are visible on certain types of MRI images. Sometimes these occur as a normal part of aging. In other cases, they represent changes associated with disease. They are found in some types of vascular cognitive impairment but are not a diagnostic feature of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Nevertheless, some patients with AD have white spots on their MRIs because many cases that are called AD should more accurately be considered cases of “mixed dementia” in which symptoms of AD are combined with symptoms of vascular cognitive impairment.
My great-grandma suffered with Alzheimer’s disease. My grandma (her daughter) is showing the early signs of this condition too. I am worried that my mum and I will suffer from Alzheimer’s at some stage in our life. My mum did an Alzheimer’s test and the results said that she was unlikely to get it. I know my great-grandma married a cousin and there can be genetic health risks associated with that. I just wondered whether there is anything to suggest that this is a hereditary disease or is a disease that can result when blood relatives marry. [ 07/25/12 ]
Only a small percentage of Alzheimer's disease (AD) cases are considered strongly heritable, but research shows that there is also a limited increase in the likelihood of AD in people who have multiple affected relatives. This increase in risk is small, however.
The marriage of blood relatives reduces the opportunity to bring new and different genes into a family, and it slightly increases the likelihood that they might share a disease gene. Although your family's lineage does not seem especially risky, you may want to consult a genetic counselor, who can give you a more detailed risk assessment, if you have concerns about disease inheritance.
My 65-year-old husband has progressed beyond mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease and he is not able to be alone anymore, so I am his full-time care partner. For several months now he gets debilitating diarrhea every time he eats (usually within one hour of eating). It is difficult for him to explain how he is feeling, but he does not appear symptomatic beyond the diarrhea. My question is whether this is related to his Alzheimer’s condition? I am sure his medication isn’t causing this as he has been taking it for quite some time. [ 07/25/12 ]
Although his medications may not be relevant, it's worth considering whether they are playing a role. The cholinesterase inhibitors are known for causing diarrhea. Your husband's primary care physician will also want to check him for other causes of diarrhea including impaction, infection (including parasites), and nerve problems that can be associated with diabetes.
If your loved one has withdrawn from social occasions, should you force them to interact with friends? [ 06/22/12 ]
Social contact and connection are valuable aspects of the support process that can be offered to people with Alzheimer's disease, but don't push so hard that the loved one's experience is made painful or your efforts will backfire. Also remember that for you, too, it's important to maintain social connections. Caregivers are at risk for isolation and depression!
My mother was 35 years old when I was born, and now I am 57. My mother's mom, my mom, and her brother have all had Alzheimer’s disease. Now my oldest sister, who is 74, has the disease as well. Is it still just a wait and see disease or are there tests to determine if someone is in the very early stages? Maybe I could be studied so that my kids do not have to experience the very sad demise that my family members have experienced. Thank you for your input. [ 06/21/12 ]
A recent statement from the Alzheimer's Association and the National Institute on Aging suggested that we should think of Alzheimer's disease as having an early stage in which the brain is increasingly affected but no cognitive changes are yet noticeable. It is likely that neuroimaging and other biomarker tests will soon help us identify people in this stage, but that very early detection is not yet a part of standard assessment.
Alzheimer's disease is a complex disorder, for which there is currently no known prevention or cure. Some research has generated hope that one day it might be possible to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, delay its symptoms, or even prevent it from occurring at all. Although there is preliminary data to support the benefit of some interventions, such as physical activity and cardiovascular risk reduction, nothing at this time has definitively been shown to prevent Alzheimer's disease or other dementias. You and your treating clinicians may want to keep an eye out for clinical trials recruiting families such as yours for early screening and intervention.
My brother has Alzheimer's disease. He has fallen asleep and they have been unable to wake him up. Is this a common occurrence with Alzheimer's patients? Since I have two brothers who suffer from this disease, am I at greater risk of getting this brain disorder? [ 05/16/12 ]
Alzheimer's disease (AD) does indeed affect sleep patterns, but your brother may have separate or additional problems with his sleep that could be addressed. Medications, too, can sometimes account for excessive difficulty awakening. Please consider seeking the advice of a sleep specialist. And, unfortunately, the presence in your family of two brothers could double or triple your risk of developing AD, though your risk is increased less if the onset of their illness came later in life.
My mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's since 1999 and is now in a late stage of the disease. Due to a life of sun exposure, mom has numerous skin cancers. We recently learned she has two squamous cell cancers and two basal cell cancers. At this point her life she does not comprehend what is happening to her. The doctor wants to remove the skin cancers and do additional biopsies on some other suspicious areas. How much should we put mom through with regard to the skin cancer diagnoses? [ 05/16/12 ]
Many Alzheimer's patients have additional diseases that are found among older adults. The diagnoses of osteoporosis, arthritis, coronary artery disease, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, cancers, and other disorders often raise the question of how aggressively to investigate and treat. Taking into account the stage of your mother's dementia and the severity of her skin cancers, you may be able to decide the best way to proceed based on two important considerations:
- What choices do you think she would make if she did comprehend the situation?
- How does the discomfort of treatment compare to the discomfort that might be caused during your mother's remaining years by untreated skin cancers?
For some, the decision to withhold treatment of slowly-progressive and minimally painful conditions is appropriate given the progressive nature of Alzheimer's disease.