Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Breaking News about ALZHEIMER's
Over 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's dementia (AD), and we believe that an equal number of people are in the early, yet UNdiagnosed stages of Alzheimer's. If you don't know someone affected yet, you will soon. My mother battled AD for over a decade, so I have a very personal face for this disease. For the first time in nearly three decades, there are new criteria for the diagnosis of this challenging disease. What's new?
Now there are THREE stages, with the first stage existing before there is any memory loss, called PRE-Clinical AD. This is based on research settings ONLY, where levels of biomarkers can be measured. The second stage is Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), where there are early memory and other cognitive changes, but these developments do not significantly impair the person's ability to perform daily tasks. The final stage is Dementia, where there are not only memory, orientation and judgement difficulties, but they are to a level that affects the patient's daily life.
Biomarkers represent a very exciting FUTURE for Alzheimer's disease research and treatment. Right now, these tests are not readily available to those of us in private practice, and even if they were, we have not established solid reference points to allow for accurate interpretation of the data. The importance is THIS- just like we can measure and treat cholesterol levels BEFORE someone has a heart attack, or see rising blood sugars before full diabetes, elevated AD biomarkers may warn us of impending AD. Obviously, the next step is then to develop medications that will PREVENT the full development of dementia, if they are started during the earliest stage.
We're making progress! Go to the Alzheimer Association website and see how you can help make a difference.
BOTTOM LINE: We are learning more and more about the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, and biomarkers represent an exciting new diagnostic tool...but they are still ONLY IN RESEARCH protocols.