Alzheimer's Disease Doctors and Specialists

Written by Wendy Leonard, MPH | Published on August 29, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on August 29, 2014

Alzheimer’s Overview

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible brain disease. It slowly destroys a person’s mind and the ability to complete everyday tasks. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s.

Doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s by conducting tests, noting behavior changes, and assessing memory impairment. There are many different types of doctors who can diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s.

Primary Care Physician

If you notice changes in a friend’s or loved one’s memory, thinking, or behavior, you should contact their primary care physician. They can help with the following:

  • conduct an exam to see if any physical or mental issue has caused the problems
  • give a brief memory-screening test, such as the Abbreviated Mental Test Score (AMTS). A score lower than six out of ten suggests a need for further evaluation
  • provide essential medical history information needed for an accurate diagnosis
  • identify changes in the patient’s memory and thinking others may miss

The doctor also can refer you to the right kind of specialists as needed.

Geriatrician

Geriatricians work with older adults. They know whether symptoms indicate a serious problem.

Geriatric Psychiatrist

Geriatric psychiatrists specialize in mental and emotional problems of older adults. They can assess memory and thinking problems.

Neurologist

Neurologists focus on abnormalities of the brain and central nervous system. They can conduct and review brain scans.

Neuropsychologist

Neuropsychologists perform tests of memory and thinking.

Memory Clinics & Centers

Places like the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers have teams of specialists to help with diagnosis. A geriatrician can review your general health, a neuropsychologist can test your thinking and memory, and a neurologist can use scanning technology to “see” inside your brain. Tests often are done on site, which can shorten the time required to make a diagnosis.

A Word About Clinical Trials

Although not right for everyone, clinical trials may be an option. Begin your research at a credible place, such as the Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Trials DatabaseThis is a joint project of the NIA and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s maintained by the NIA's Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center. 

Getting a Second Opinion

AD diagnosis is not always easy. A second opinion is sometimes part of the process. Most medical professionals understand this and should give you a referral. If not, there are a number of other resources available, including the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center, which is a service of the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

Was this article helpful? Yes No

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.

Article Sources:

  • Albert, M. S., Dekosky, S. T., Dickson, D., Dubois, B., Feldman, H. H., Fox, N. C., et al. (2011). The diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer's disease: Recommendations from the National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer's Association workgroup. Alzheimers Dement.
  • Alzheimer's Association. (2011). Press Release: New Criteria and Guidelines for the Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease Published for the first Time in 27 Years. The Alzheimer's Association, 1-11.
  • Arvanitakis, Z., Wilson, R. S., Bienias, J. L., Evans, D. A., & Bennett, D. A. (2004). Diabetes mellitus and risk of Alzheimer disease and decline in cognitive function. Arch Neurol, 61(5), 661-666.
  • Ballard, C., Gauthier, S., Corbett, A., Brayne, C., Aarsland, D., & Jones, E. (2011). Alzheimer's disease. Lancet, 377(9770), 1019-1031.
  • Bird, T. D. (2010). Early-Onset Familial Alzheimer Disease. University of Washington, Gene Review.
  • Birks, J., & Grimley Evans, J. (2009). Ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev(1), CD003120.
  • Bosco, D., Fava, A., Plastino, M., Montalcini, T., & Pujia, A. (2011). Possible implications of Insulin Resistance and Glucose metabolism in Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis. J Cell Mol Med.
  • Boyle, P. A., Buchman, A. S., Barnes, L. L., & Bennett, D. A. (2010). Effect of a purpose in life on risk of incident Alzheimer disease and mild cognitive impairment in community-dwelling older persons. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 67(3), 304-310.
  • Boyle, P. A., Buchman, A. S., Barnes, L. L., James, B. D., & Bennett, D. A. (2010). Association between life space and risk of mortality in advanced age. J Am Geriatr Soc, 58(10), 1925-1930.
  • Brinkley, T. E., Lovato, J. F., Arnold, A. M., Furberg, C. D., Kuller, L. H., Burke, G. L., et al. (2010). Effect of Ginkgo biloba on blood pressure and incidence of hypertension in elderly men and women. Am J Hypertens, 23(5), 528-533.
  • Daviglus, M. L., Bell, C. C., Berrettini, W., Bowen, P. E., Connolly, E. S., Cox, N. J., et al. (2010). NIH State-of-the-Science Conference Statement: Preventing Alzheimer's Disease and Cognitive Decline. NIH Consens State Sci Statements, 27(4).
  • De Felice, F. G., Vieira, M. N., Bomfim, T. R., Decker, H., Velasco, P. T., Lambert, M. P., et al. (2009). Protection of synapses against Alzheimer's-linked toxins: insulin signaling prevents the pathogenic binding of Abeta oligomers. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 106(6), 1971-1976.
  • deIpolyi, A. R., Rankin, K. P., Mucke, L., Miller, B. L., & Gorno-Tempini, M. L. (2007). Spatial cognition and the human navigation network in AD and MCI. Neurology, 69(10), 986-997.
  • DeKosky, S. T., Williamson, J. D., Fitzpatrick, A. L., Kronmal, R. A., Ives, D. G., Saxton, J. A., et al. (2008). Ginkgo biloba for prevention of dementia: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 300(19), 2253-2262.
  • Fillit, H. M., Butler, R. N., O'Connell, A. W., Albert, M. S., Birren, J. E., Cotman, C. W., et al. (2002). Achieving and maintaining cognitive vitality with aging. Mayo Clin Proc, 77(7), 681-696.
  • Harold, D., Abraham, R., Hollingworth, P., Sims, R., Gerrish, A., Hamshere, M. L., et al. (2009). Genome-wide association study identifies variants at CLU and PICALM associated with Alzheimer's disease. Nat Genet, 41(10), 1088-1093.
  • Herrmann, W., & Obeid, R. (2011). Homocysteine: a biomarker in neurodegenerative diseases. Clin Chem Lab Med, 49(3), 435-441.
  • Keating, D. J., Chen, C., & Pritchard, M. A. (2006). Alzheimer's disease and endocytic dysfunction: clues from the Down syndrome-related proteins, DSCR1 and ITSN1. Ageing Res Rev, 5(4), 388-401.
  • Ladika, D. J., & Gurevitz, S. L. (2011). Identifying the most common causes of reversible dementias: a review. JAAPA, 24(3), 28-31, 57.
  • Li, K., Dai, D., Zhao, B., Yao, L., Yao, S., Wang, B., et al. (2010). Association between the RAGE G82S polymorphism and Alzheimer's disease. J Neural Transm, 117(1), 97-104.
  • McKhanna, G. M., Knopmanc, D. S., Chertkowd, H., Hyman, B. T., Clifford R. Jack, J., Kawash, C. H., et al. (2011). The diagnosis of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease: Recommendations from the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association workgroup.Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 1–7.
  • Nation, D. A., Hong, S., Jak, A. J., Delano-Wood, L., Mills, P. J., Bondi, M. W., et al. (2011). Stress, exercise, and Alzheimer's disease: A neurovascular pathway. Med Hypotheses.
  • National Library of Medicine. (2011). Alzheimer's Disease. Medline Plus; U.S. National Library of Medicine; National Institutes of Health.
  • NCCAM. (2011). National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: The Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) Study. National Institutes of Health' National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
  • NIA. (2008). Alzheimer's Disease:  Unraveling the Mystery. National Institute on Aging; National Institutes of Heath; US Department of Health and Human Services; NIH Publication Number 08-3782, 1-43.
  • NIA. (2011). Caring for a Person with Alzheimer's Disease; Medicine Chart. National Institutes of Health; National Institute on Aging; Alzheimer's Disease Education & Referral Center.
  • NINDS. (2010). NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; National Institutes of Health; US Department of Health & Human Services.
  • NINDS. (2011). Dementia: Hope Through Research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health.
  • Panza, F., Frisardi, V., Imbimbo, B. P., D'Onofrio, G., Pietrarossa, G., Seripa, D., et al. (2010). Bapineuzumab: anti-beta-amyloid monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Immunotherapy, 2(6), 767-782.
  • Redish, A. D. (2001). The hippocampal debate: are we asking the right questions? Behav Brain Res, 127(1-2), 81-98.
  • Reitz, C., Brayne, C., & Mayeux, R. (2011). Epidemiology of Alzheimer disease. Nat Rev Neurol, 7(3), 137-152.
  • Reitz, C., den Heijer, T., van Duijn, C., Hofman, A., & Breteler, M. M. (2007). Relation between smoking and risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease: the Rotterdam Study. Neurology, 69(10), 998-1005.
  • Seneff, S., Wainwright, G., & Mascitelli, L. (2011). Nutrition and Alzheimer's disease: The detrimental role of a high carbohydrate diet.Eur J Intern Med, 22(2), 134-140.
  • Snitz, B. E., O'Meara, E. S., Carlson, M. C., Arnold, A. M., Ives, D. G., Rapp, S. R., et al. (2009). Ginkgo biloba for preventing cognitive decline in older adults: a randomized trial. JAMA, 302(24), 2663-2670.
  • Solomon, P. R., Adams, F., Silver, A., Zimmer, J., & DeVeaux, R. (2002). Ginkgo for memory enhancement: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 288(7), 835-840.
  • Traykov, L., Rigaud, A. S., Cesaro, P., & Boller, F. (2007). [Neuropsychological impairment in the early Alzheimer's disease].Encephale, 33(3 Pt 1), 310-316.
  • Uc, E. Y., Rizzo, M., Anderson, S. W., Shi, Q., & Dawson, J. D. (2004). Driver route-following and safety errors in early Alzheimer disease.Neurology, 63(5), 832-837.
  • Wegiel, J., Gong, C. X., & Hwang, Y. W. (2011). The role of DYRK1A in neurodegenerative diseases. FEBS J, 278(2), 236-245.
  • Wilson, R. S., Mendes De Leon, C. F., Barnes, L. L., Schneider, J. A., Bienias, J. L., Evans, D. A., et al. (2002). Participation in cognitively stimulating activities and risk of incident Alzheimer disease. JAMA, 287(6), 742-748.
  • Yu, F. (2011). Guiding Research and Practice: A Conceptual Model for Aerobic Exercise Training in Alzheimer's Disease. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen.

More on Healthline

Migraine vs. Chronic Migraine: What Are the Differences?
Migraine vs. Chronic Migraine: What Are the Differences?
There is not just one type of migraine. Chronic migraine is one subtype of migraine. Understand what sets these two conditions apart.
Seasonal Allergies and COPD: Tips to Avoid Complications
Seasonal Allergies and COPD: Tips to Avoid Complications
For COPD patients, allergies pose the risk of serious complications. Learn some basic tips for avoiding allergy-related complications of COPD in this slideshow.
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
The symptoms of RA are more than just joint pain and stiffness. Common symptoms include loss of feeling, muscle pain, and more. Learn more in this slideshow.
Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
From first exposure to life-threatening complications, learn how quickly an allergy attack can escalate and why it can become life threatening.
Beyond Back Pain: 5 Warning Signs of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Beyond Back Pain: 5 Warning Signs of Ankylosing Spondylitis
There are a number of potential causes of back pain, but one you might not know about is ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Find out five warning signs of AS in this slideshow.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement