Dementia & Alzheimer's Disease

Dementia is a broad term for the decline or significant loss of mental abilities that is severe enough to interfere with day-to-day living. It is caused by damage to nerve cells in the brain, and can occur in several areas of the brain. Many forms of dementia are progressive, which means symptoms get worse over time.

Depending on where the damage occurs in the brain, dementia can impact people in different ways. The core functions most affected include:

  • Memory
  • Language and communication
  • Reasoning and judgement
  • Attention and focus
  • Visual perception

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, which represents up to 80% of all cases and typically affects people aged 65 years and older. During the course of the disease, abnormal deposits of protein form clumps called plaques and tangled bundles of fiber in the brain, causing neurons to work less efficiently and lose their ability to communicate with each other. Before long, the damage spreads and shrinks brain tissue. By the end-stage of the disease, people lose all memory and mental functioning.

Diagnosing dementia and Alzheimer's can be difficult. Diagnostic tests usually include a neurological evaluation to assess senses, reflexes, balance, and movement; memory tests, CT or MRI brain scans, and blood tests to rule other physical issues that can affect brain function. Alzheimer's disease can only be diagnosed definitively after death through an autopsy. However, many of the tests used to diagnose dementia can be used to determine “probable Alzheimer’s dementia.”

When it comes to the diagnosis and compassionate treatment of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, the Temple neurologists at Jeanes Hospital are among the most knowledgeable and experienced in the area.

Dementia and Alzheimer's Treatment at Jeanes Hospital

Because each patient’s situation is unique, the Temple neurologists at Jeanes develop individualized treatment programs to help patients and their loved ones manage their dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. There are no surgical options to treat these conditions, though surgery may be recommended for underlying conditions that can affect brain function.

In some cases, medications can help improve mental function, mood, or behavior, but they cannot cure or reverse dementia or Alzheimer's disease. The Temple neurologist may recommend cholinesterase inhibitors, which have been approved by the FDA to treat symptoms of these conditions and possibly slow their progression. Other medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and stimulants may help treat related symptoms.

An early diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer's can allow the patient to take part in making plans for the future, including making living arrangements, handling legal and financial matters, developing support networks, and arranging palliative care.

To schedule an appointment with a Temple neurosurgeon or neurosurgeon at the Jeanes Hospital Neurosciences Center, click here or call 215-728-CARE (2273).

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