Answer: Yes, having Alzheimer's disease is associated with a higher chance of having seizures, even in people who have not previously been epileptic. In my experience, the seizures generally occur in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease and are generalized in character, in which the person loses consciousness during the actual event (this type of seizure formerly was known as "grand mal").
In one study, up to 25 percent of advanced Alzheimer patients experienced at least one seizure. The seizures can be treated effectively with currently available anti-epileptic medications. Alzheimer's patients, again generally those who are in advanced stages of dementia, also can develop a seizure-like disorder termed "myoclonus" in which frequent and often widespread muscular twitches occur but there is no associated loss of consciouness. Myoclonus can be treated as well with current medications if necessary, but often the myoclonus is mild and does not require treatment.
There are many possible causes of both seizures and myoclonus in older adults, including those with Alzhiemer's disease. Thus, it is very important to have a thorough evaluation by a physician to assess for the underlying cause or causes of the condition rather than to simply assume that it is attributable to Alzheimer's disease.
- John Morris, M.D., Director, Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, Washington University, St. Louis
Question: My mother had Alzheimer's and I am noticing a lot of little things with myself. I'm 58 years old. How can I take this five-minute question test?
Answer: The Test Your Memory test that was referenced in a study published in the British Medical Journal can be found by clicking here. There is also a separate scoring sheet that you'll need to take a look at by clicking here.
Here's an update on the high demand for this test from Dr. Jeremy Brown, a neurologist who helped design the five-minute test:
Thank you for your interest in the TYM (Test Your Memory) test. We have been very pleased with the publication of our initial study and the huge response. I'm afraid not all the publicity concerning the test is accurate. The TYM test is designed to be used as part of a medical consultation not for self-diagnosis.
If you would like to try the TYM test, then your doctor may be willing to supervise the TYM. They can find out more information from the BMJ and TYMTEST websites. It may be a couple more weeks before the TYM website is operational. (This message was posted June 12, 2009.)
- Jeremy Brown, M.D., Consultant Neurologist, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, England
Question: How can I be sure that in diagnosing my mother with Alzheimer's desease the doctors didn't just look for signs to confirm a diagnosis but also ruled out every other desease/illness that may cause similar symptoms? What are some illnesses that may be incorrectly diagnosed as Alzheimer's? I want to be sure that every other illness was not missed by making what may be seen as an "obvious" diagnosis.
Answer: Here are two expert answers on other causes of dementia and other conditions that mimic symptoms of Alzheimer's. Take care.