Living with, or caring for someone with, a memory disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is challenging. The memory disorder specialists at MUSC Health work diligently to ensure that you or your loved one receives the proper diagnosis and appropriate care plan. We provide compassionate care to help you enjoy life to the fullest.
Memory Disorders Clinic at MUSC Health: Why Choose Us?
When patients come to MUSC Health for the diagnosis and treatment of memory disorders, you benefit from:
- Advanced Diagnostic Services: Many conditions, such as vascular problems or neurological issues, can cause problems with memory and thinking. Our doctors use the most advanced technology to pinpoint the cause of memory problems so we can tailor an appropriate treatment plan.
- Depth of Expertise: Memory problems can affect a range of functions. Our doctors have advanced training in cognitive and behavioral neurology, allowing us to expertly treat both the cause and symptoms. In addition, our team of neuropsychologists, occupational, physical and speech therapists, social workers, and genetic counselors ensure that you receive the individualized care for all of your needs. Meet your team.
- Care Focused on You: Our team takes into consideration your physical, emotional, and cognitive needs. We work with you and your loved ones to ensure your treatment plan benefits you. Learn more about treating memory disorders.
- Innovative Treatments: Our status as an academic medical center means you have opportunities to participate in clinical trials. Participants may be able to try new therapies designed to slow or stop disease progression or improve symptoms. Multiple studies are available for the research of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease including observational studies and clinical drug trials.
- Convenience: In addition to our main campus in downtown Charleston, we also provide care at our Mount Pleasant and West Ashley clinics.
- Concierge Services: Our guest services staff is here to help with travel and lodging arrangements or other needs.
Memory Disorders We Treat
Our doctors diagnose and treat adults with a variety of memory disorders, including:
- Alzheimer’s Disease: A progressive brain disorder caused by a buildup of amyloid protein plaques between nerve cells and twisted fibers, or tangles, in nerve cells.
- Vascular Dementia: A decline in thinking skills brought on by stroke or inadequate blood flow to the brain.
- Cognitive Impairment without Dementia: Slight declines in thinking skills that do not interfere with the ability to complete everyday tasks like cook or drive. People with cognitive impairment have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB): This form of dementia is related to Parkinson’s disease. It occurs when abnormal protein deposits, known as Lewy bodies, damage brain cells.
- Frontotemporal Dementia: A group of disorders caused by nerve cell loss in the front parts of the brain.
- Mixed Dementia: Having more than one type of memory disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
- Parkinson’s Disease Dementia: Changes in thinking brought on by Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder.
- Huntington’s Disease: Changes to areas of the brain that control thinking, movement and mood brought on by an altered, inherited gene.
- Progressive Supranuclear Palsy: Rare brain disorder that affects movement, thinking, vision, and speech.
- Primary Progressive Aphasia: Language impairment caused by Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia.
Diagnosing Memory Disorders
Memory loss is not always a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Certain medications, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, strokes, and tumors can affect thought processes.
At MUSC Health, our specialists perform basic tests, such as blood work and mental assessments, as well as more advanced diagnostic tests to identify possible causes. The information we gather from these tests guides the development of an appropriate treatment plan for your specific condition.
Advanced diagnostic services at MUSC Health include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET)
- Cerebrospinal fluid analysis
- Neuropsychological testing
This brain scan reveals information about your brain’s shape and volume. People with certain types of dementia may show signs of shrinkage, or atrophy, in certain brain areas. An MRI also can identify other potential causes of dementia, such as vascular disease, tumors or stroke.
This imaging test shows how your brain uses glucose, a sugar. A low-level radioactive drug, or tracer, given with the glucose reveals areas of the brain with high and low levels of chemical activity. People with Alzheimer’s disease may have low glucose levels in areas responsible for memory, learning, and problem solving.
Cerebrospinal fluid is a clear liquid that bathes the spinal cord and brain. People with Alzheimer’s disease may have elevated levels of tau and amyloid proteins in this fluid. During a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, your doctor numbs your lower back with an anesthetic and removes fluid for testing.
Our clinical neuropsychologists perform tests to determine how different areas and systems of your brain are functioning. Their expert assessments aid diagnosis and treatment planning.
Although memory disorders are not curable, certain medications and therapies can improve daily living. Our specialists use best-evidence guidelines, backed by research, to help you manage symptoms.
Our treatment options include:
- Medications: Medications may alleviate symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion, for a short period of time. They cannot stop disease progression. Medication options include:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors for mild to moderate memory loss, confusion and problems with thinking and reasoning
- Memantine for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. This medication may improve memory, attention, reason, language, and the ability to perform simple tasks.
- Rehabilitation Services: Experts in our occupational and physical therapy program customize plans to help you maintain the highest level of function and independence in daily activities. Our speech therapists work with you on memory building techniques.
- Emotional Support: Our neuropsychologists and mental health experts help you cope with depression or anxiety.
To learn more about the Memory Disorders Clinic at MUSC Health or to schedule an appointment, please call 843-792-3223.