Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease: A Leap Forward
At present, there is no single diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, the diagnosis is reached when the medical practitioner (e.g. psychiatrist, general practitioner, geriatrician, or neurologist) has eliminated all other possible causes of the symptoms being experienced; an overview of these symptoms is provided in a previous Hull & Hull LLP blog of February 17, 2009. As a result, the diagnosis is generally coined ‘probable Alzheimer’s disease’ and this thin wedge of uncertainty often leads to an inability to accept the diagnosis as well as resistance to care and treatment. An autopsy is currently the only means of confirming the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Associated Press reported last week, however, that the first commercial version of a test designed to detect Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages could be available in as few as 12 to 18 months. According to Dr. Daniel Alkon, scientific director of the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute (the Institute has teamed with Inverness Medical Innovations Inc. for this endeavour), the test works by detecting abnormal function of a protein that is known to be involved in memory storage.
Early diagnosis will have a multitude of benefits: incorrect diagnosis of the disease based primarily on a patient’s behaviour can be greatly reduced, lifestyle changes can be made which may slow the progression of the disease, the patient and their family may gain valuable time to plan for the future, and those with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease will have tangible information with which to move forward.
Jennifer Hartman, Guest Blogger