Your loved one has been forgetting things lately—where he or she placed the car keys, a dentist appointment, even a good friend’s name. The forgetfulness worries you. Are these memory lapses a sign of normal aging or symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s affects parts of the brain that control memory and language. Some 4.5 million Americans suffer from the disease, and symptoms typically begin to appear after age 60.
Occasional forgetfulness doesn’t mean someone has Alzheimer’s. Blanking on someone’s name or misplacing keys from time to time is normal. If it happens regularly, however, it could be cause for concern.
When to see the doctor
If your loved one shows any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with his or her healthcare provider:
Other reasons for memory loss
“These symptoms don’t always mean Alzheimer’s disease,” says neurologist April Yuki, MD, of Lakeshore Health Partners–Neurology. “Your doctor should check for other conditions that may cause memory problems.” These include drug interactions, dehydration, vitamin deficiency, poor nutrition, sleep disorders, thyroid problems and minor head injuries. Stress and depression can also make a person forgetful.
“There’s more than one type of dementia, and they present in different ways,” Dr. Yuki explains. “The more specific you can be about what type of memory problems someone is having, the better the doctor can delineate whether it’s normal for his or her age, or is something else.”
No single test can identify Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors arrive at an Alzheimer’s diagnosis after physical, neurological and mental health assessments, as well as lab tests to rule out other conditions. If the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s, the symptoms will become progressively worse, but early drug treatment can sometimes delay decline.
See Dr. Yuki’s lecture, “Aging and Memory Loss,” presented in November as part of our Physician Lecture Series.
ABOUT THE DOCTOR
April Yuki, MD
Lakeshore Health Partners–Neurology
577 Michigan Avenue, Suite 203
Holland, MI 49423
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