707 S. Garfield Ave.
Suite B-001
Alhambra, CA 91801
Tel: 626.227.2727
Fax: 626.227.2799

1661 Hanover Road
Suite 102
City of Industry, CA 91748
Tel: 626.965.8118
Fax: 626.965.8114

Health News - Around Alhambra - Alhambra Chamber of Commerce

Alzheimer's Disease
By Richard Chao, M.D.

Alzheimer's Disease or AD, is a progressive brain disorder that affects as many as 5 million people in the US; about 10 % of Americans over 65 years old are affected. The national cost of caring for people with AD is over 100 billion. The physical and emotional costs to the families taking care of AD family members are huge as well.

AD is the most common form of dementia, causing memory loss and problems in thinking and behavior. As AD gets worse over time, it is fatal. AD is the sixth leading cause of death in the US. It is caused by the development of abnormal protein plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in certain parts of the brain that control memory, language and information processing. These abnormal proteins and tangles disrupt the normal nerve communication pathways in the brain.

It is important to differentiate AD from other causes of dementia, such as vascular-atherosclerotic disease, psychiatric illnesses, brain tumors and other neurodegenerative types of dementia, so that the right therapy can be given. Specific drugs are now available to help treat early AD. These drugs, called cholinesterase inhibitors, can slow down, although not reverse, the progression of the disease. Newer, more effective drugs and AD tests are being researched now and may become commercially available in a few years.

In the evaluation of the dementia patient, the current workup includes 1) a thorough history and physical by a neurologist or dementia specialist; 2) tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting and language skills, blood, urine and spinal fluid laboratory tests; 3) CT and MRI scans to check for anatomical changes in the brain; and 4) MMSE or mini mental status exam. PET scans are now approved by Medicare for the evaluation of AD. PET can help detect AD at its early as well as late stages and tell the difference between normal aging brain from brains affected by AD or other neurodegenerative diseases. Newer PET drug agents specific for AD as well as newer MRI techniques such as Volumap are being developed to improve the accuracy in diagnosing AD. These new AD test developments, along with new drug therapies for AD, make for a brighter future for AD sufferers and their families.

For further information on the signs and symptoms of AD and a superb source of information on AD in English, Chinese and Spanish, visit www.alz.org.

Richard Chao, M.D. is a board certified radiologist with 25 years experience, specializing in MRI and molecular imaging. He is the medical director of Pacific Medical Imaging and Oncology Center, located at 707 S. Garfield Ave., Suite B-001, Alhambra. Call (626) 227-2727 or visit www.PMIOC.com for more information.