ComplicationsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Memory 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 later 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:
- 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.
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