According to the CDC, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease.
The M Physicians St. Louis Park Clinic treats all types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease –– the most common type of dementia.
Dementia is a general category for a disease that robs patients of their higher-order cognitive or behavioral function.
“Memory, visual spatial skills, language skills and then behavior too –– all of those things start to be lost in the types of disorders that we treat and diagnose,” said Will Mantyh, MD, incoming behavioral neurologist at the M Physicians St. Louis Park Clinic.
While there’s currently no disease modifying drug that treats Alzheimer’s disease, that could be changing within the next couple of years.
“There are quite a few new, exciting drugs being tested in ongoing clinical trials that show a lot of promise,” Dr. Mantyh said.
But, there are ways to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
“As far as what can be done, I think Alzheimer’s disease has had a very nihilistic view of how it can be treated,” Dr. Mantyh said. “Although there’s no disease-modifying drug, we still can treat the symptoms of the disease.”
One of the most common symptoms is depression.
“There are both drug- and non-drug- related therapies that are available for patients that suffer from depression,” Dr. Mantyh said. “Difficulty sleeping is another common symptom. We can encourage good sleep behaviors and recommend medications for that as well.”
One of the most difficult aspects of Alzheimer’s disease is the weight of the diagnosis. It can be life-changing for not only the patient but also the caregiver and the family. Because the disease inevitably leads to progressive deterioration in cognitive and behavioral functioning, it can be incredibly hard to plan for the future.
“It’s our job to help patients understand what that future looks like, and to set them up with appropriate social services that can help them with their needs,” Dr. Mantyh said. “For instance, medication management or looking out for safety issues at home.”
Bottom line –– the earlier that patients can come in and get diagnosed, the easier it is to treat the disease and to prepare for the steps ahead.
“It’s important to try to come in before the symptoms are so obvious as to cause notable impairments in daily living,” Dr. Mantyh said. “Psychiatric diseases, sleep problems, medical illnesses, vitamin deficiencies and infections can all have similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s disease, and so our job is to try to diagnose the patient with the correct condition so that they can plan for the future.”
If you are interested in making an appointment at the M Physicians St. Louis Park Clinic or participating in research to help us better understand Alzheimer’s disease, please call 952-525-4500.