What do Alzheimer’s specialists do?Alzheimer’s disease
is typically treated by a neurologist. Neurologists can diagnose the condition based on questionnaires and medical tests, provide treatment to manage symptoms or curb disease progression with medications and behavioral interventions, and discuss the adaptations needed to accommodate the disease, such as caregiving, safety, housing, and sleep practices.
Who can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease? A neurologist, neuropsychologist, geriatrician, or geriatric psychiatrist can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. (A primary care physician can refer patients to these specialists.) To diagnose the disease, the medical professional may administer questionnaires, tests of memory and attention, psychiatric evaluations, brain scans, and medical tests such as a cerebral spinal fluid collection to test for the presence of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. There is no single, definitive test for the condition, but doctors can make a diagnosis with moderate to high confidence. Because the disease is progressive, it is possible to make the diagnosis with increasing certainty as a person is monitored over months and years.
Is there a blood test for Alzheimer’s? Yes, a blood test can help physicians diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Blood tests measure biomarkers such as the protein amyloid-beta, which builds up in the brain of those with Alzheimer’s. However, a blood test isn’t definitive on its own; it’s used in combination with other diagnostic criteria such as symptom questionnaires, memory tests, medical and psychiatric exams, and more.
Can you overcome Alzheimer’s with therapy? Unfortunately, there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, therapeutically or medically. However, treatments can help slow the disease and help manage symptoms. Medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors (e.g. galantamine) or NMDA antagonists (e.g. memantine) can help with symptoms. Behavioral treatments can address anxiety, depression, irritability, sleep problems, and lifestyle changes such as finding social support and for many, ultimately moving to an assisted care facility.