Can my husband's "band of pressure" complaint be related to his Alzheimer's?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 23, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and possibly other forms of dementia. He's 75 now, lost his job 5 yrs ago because of memory problems, but remains in good physical health. He drives (only in daylight, and to places he knows), goes regularly to a gym for weight training, reads as much as ever, and is working on assembling some of his lifetime's worth of black and white photographs in hopes of finding places to exhibit and sell them.

His mental state is pretty good -- he doesn't get angry or upset or anxious, all of which I attribute to the fact that he's been on a Zoloft RX for several years. In general, he remains his sweet, funny, appreciative self.

However, he needs anything complicated (directions, plans) broken down into small steps and discussed, slowly, one at a time. In conversation he's begun hunting for nouns and occasionally finding circumlocutions to replace them with; goes through periods of not being able to read watches and clocks (although this goes back years, and may be more a matter of his lifelong dyslexia than AD); and he easily loses track of normal social conversation and is tired by it.

For some months he's been complaining of a feeling of "tightness" in his head, like a band of pressure running across his forehead above the eyebrows -- not pain, but pressure. We can relieve it with fenugreek tea plus an aspirin or an ibuprophin, but the incidence of this complaint has increased quite a bit recently.

My question is, is this kind of headache (in a man who has never complained of headaches in his life before) possibly connected with his Alzheimer's, or with other forms of dementia; and if so, is there any sort of treatment/medication for it?

Expert Answers

Ladislav Volicer, M.D., Ph.D., is recognized as an international expert on advanced dementia care. He is a courtesy full professor at the School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, and visiting professor at the Third Medical Faculty, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. Twenty-five years ago, he established one of the first dementia special care units.

Headache is not a common symptom of Alzheimer's disease. It could be caused by a stress of trying to manage conversation and other activities but it could be also a symptom of other diseases, e.g., high blood pressure or brain tumor. You might want to take your husband to a physician to get thorough examination, that would exclude other diseases that may cause headaches.

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Community Answers

Berstan answered...

If he is taking memantine (generic Namenda), it may be that his headaches are from that. Headache and joint pain are common side effects from memantine. We find that giving my wife 4 baby aspirin immediately after waking up in the morning and then going back to bed for a half hour or so makes both symptoms go away for the rest of the day. She also takes a memantine tablet at mid morning and that does not seem to cause a headache; only the one she takes 12 hours later before going to bed.