One of the most important treatments for Alzheimer’s is fast detection, especially for early Alzheimer’s. How though, is it possible to determine whether memory loss or dementia is caused by early Alzheimer’s? Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland reported in September 2003 that a laboratory test was available for early detection of Alzheimer’s.
This test measures two compounds in the spinal fluid. One of these compounds, known as tau protein, is a key component of twisted nerve cell fibers in the brain with Alzheimer’s. The other compound, beta amyloid, is a sticky protein around dying nerve cells in brains that have Alzheimer’s.
They found that the ratio of tau to beta amyloid was significantly higher in people with Alzheimer’s than in people who had other forms of dementia or nervous system disorders or no mental decline.
The scientists concluded that the spinal fluid test could offer “a promising tool” for early detection of Alzheimer’s, but called for additional testing to confirm the results.
The Dilemma of Early Alzheimer’s
Researchers are also looking into imaging techniques such as MRI and PET scans. This helps them find changes in the brain structure and areas of activation that indicate the onset of Alzheimer’s.
There is no lab test that currently detects Alzheimer’s with a high degree of efficiency. Often a definitive diagnosis is not done until an autopsy is completed after death of the individual has occurred.
General practitioners are not very successful at early detection of Alzheimer’s, but a dementia specialist can predict Alzheimer’s 90 percent of the time. This makes regular visits to a physician a very important part in the early detection of Alzheimer’s.
If early detection of Alzheimer’s is accomplished, then the chances of controlling the disease are much more likely since all of the current treatments require early detection to be the most beneficial. Prompt diagnosis also helps family and friends to prepare for worsening symptoms and make plans for the future of the Alzheimer’s patient.
Tests for the Detection of Early Alzheimer’s
Evaluations for early detection of Alzheimer’s will generally include:
* Medical history,
* Physical examination,
* Blood and urine tests,
* Neuropsychological testing, and
* Brain imaging scan.
These tests can be performed by your regular physician, but may be better suited to a neurologist or a geriatric psychiatrist. You can also contact a medical center that provides Alzheimer’s care. You can also find additional information at the National Institute for Aging.
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