Dementia

Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles

Neurology Specialists located in Santa Monica, CA

Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease may be the best known neurodegenerative disorders, but they’re not alone. As a group, neurodegenerative disorders tend to appear as you get older, then they progressively worsen. Edward J. O’Connor, MD, FAAN, and Russ Shimizu, MD, at Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles are experts who provide comprehensive treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. To schedule an appointment, call the office in Santa Monica, California, or use the online booking feature.

Dementia Q & A

What are neurodegenerative disorders?

Neurodegenerative disease is a broad umbrella term that includes all types of disorders in which nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain or spinal cord stop functioning and ultimately die. Although treatment can help relieve your physical or mental symptoms, neurodegenerative disorders are progressive, and to date, there are no cures.

What should I know about Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that develops due to two primary changes in your brain: neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques.

Neurofibrillary tangles develop when pieces of twisted tau protein build up inside nerve cells. Amyloid plaques form when another type of protein, beta-amyloid, accumulates around the outside of nerve cells.

As the tangles and plaques spread and destroy nerve cells, patients with Alzheimer’s go through stages of progressively worsening symptoms. Forgetfulness occurs at the earliest stage, then over time, they can’t perform routine daily tasks and lose the ability to communicate, eat, and walk.

Several medications help to improve memory and reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The doctors at Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles offer comprehensive Alzheimer’s care for patients and their families.

Are there other types of neurodegenerative dementias?

Alzheimer’s represents 60-80% of all cases of dementia, but it’s not the only type. Dementia refers to the symptoms that develop, such as memory loss, confusion, uncoordinated motor function, and difficulty communicating.

Some types of dementia that develop due to an underlying health condition can be reversed when the condition is treated. However, primary, progressive dementias that originate in your brain include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Lewy body disease
  • Frontotemporal lobe disorders
  • Mixed dementia

Primary dementias occur when nerve cells in the brain are damaged. For example, Lewy body dementia (LBD) arises from abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein, while frontotemporal lobe disorders are caused by nerve degeneration.

What are Parkinson’s disease and corticobasal degeneration?

Parkinson’s disease is a motor system disorder caused by a loss of cells that produce the brain chemical dopamine. Low levels of dopamine cause four primary symptoms:

  • Tremor (trembling) in the arms, legs, jaw, and face
  • Stiffness of the arms, legs, and trunk
  • Slow movement
  • Impaired balance and abnormal posture

Corticobasal degeneration, which develops when nerve cells in the brain shrink, causes symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, as well as cognitive impairments. Corticobasal degeneration first appears on one side of the body, then gradually affects both sides as the nerve damage progresses.

What causes hydrocephalus?

Inside your brain, there are four interconnected cavities called ventricles. They produce cerebrospinal fluid, which flows through the ventricles, acting as a shock absorber and delivering nutrients to your brain.

Normally, the amount of cerebrospinal fluid produced is balanced by an equal amount being naturally resorbed. Excess fluid can build up in the ventricles when the brain can’t resorb enough fluid, bleeding develops, or you suffer a stroke, head injury, or infection. This fluid buildup, called hydrocephalus, causes pressure on your brain.

Treatment for neurodegenerative disorders is highly individualized to relieve each patient’s symptoms. To receive a complete neurological evaluation, call Neurological Associates of West Los Angeles or book an appointment online today.