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Advances in Diagnosing Alzheimer’s

With all of the amazing technology we now have at our fingertips, many people might assume we have definitive tests to diagnose Alzheimer Disease (AD). 

However, determining whether an individual has AD, and differentiating it from other forms of dementia has traditionally been an inexact process. Doctors have to rely on a combination of signs and symptoms, and tests of thinking and memory.

That’s undoubtedly why research studies comparing the diagnosis a patient was given during life, to postmortem examinations of the brain have found that a sizeable percentage of dementia patients received an inaccurate diagnosis.

For instance, in one Canadian study, published in 2016, the error rate was 22 per cent. 

In roughly half of these cases, the individuals had been diagnosed with AD, but their brains lacked the deposits of two abnormal proteins (amyloid and tau) that are hallmarks of the disease.

The others had been diagnosed with other forms of dementia, but their brains did contain the amyloid plaques and tangles characteristic of AD.

However, a wave of scientific advances is pointing the way to earlier, more precise diagnosis and treatment. 

I wrote about some key developments for Mind Over Matter magazine (from the Women’s Brain Health Initiative), in this story: ‘Telltale Sign: Advances in Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease’.

I highly recommend reading the rest of the issue (#18), which you can download here. It’s an excellent publication.

My heartfelt thanks to the interviewees who so generously shared their time and expertise:

Image by Gerd Altmann Courtesy of Pixabay