Memory and language loss, impaired judgment, and other cognitive changes caused by Alzheimer's can complicate treatment for other health conditions. A person with Alzheimer's disease may not be able to:
- Communicate that he or she is experiencing pain — for example, from a dental problem
- Report symptoms of another illness
- Follow a prescribed treatment plan
- Notice or describe medication side effects
As Alzheimer's disease progresses to its last stages, brain changes begin to affect physical functions, such as swallowing, balance, and bowel and bladder control. These effects can increase vulnerability to additional health problems such as:
June 17, 2014
Pneumonia and other infections. Difficulty swallowing may cause people with Alzheimer's to inhale (aspirate) food or liquid into their airways and lungs, which can lead to pneumonia.
Inability to control emptying of the bladder (urinary incontinence) may require placement of a tube to drain and collect urine (urinary catheter). Having a catheter increases your risk of urinary tract infections, which can lead to more-serious, life-threatening infections.
- Injuries from falls. People with Alzheimer's become increasingly vulnerable to falling. Falls can lead to fractures. In addition, falls are a common cause of serious head injuries.
- Goldman L, et al. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 8, 2014.
- Alzheimer's disease fact sheet. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet. Accessed April 8, 2014.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed April 8, 2014.
- Halter JB, et al. Hazzard's Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. 6th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=540. Accessed April 8, 2014.
- Leal SL, et al. Perturbations of neural circuitry in aging, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer's disease. Ageing Research Reviews. 2013;12:823.
- Wright CB. Etiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of vascular dementia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 8, 2014.
- Papadakis MA, ed., et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2014. 53rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2014. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=1. Accessed April 8, 2014.
- Grabowski TJ. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 8, 2014.
- Caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/caring-person-alzheimers-disease/about-guide. Accessed April 8, 2014.
- Alternative treatments. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_alternative_treatments.asp. Accessed April 8, 2014.
- Alzheimer's disease at a glance. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/alzheimer/ataglance. Accessed April 8, 2014.
- Smith GE (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 19, 2014.
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