I understand that this initial step in order to find out whether or not you may have Alzheimer’s is frightening and stressful — but the sooner you find out, the better.
We may not currently have a cure, but there are steps you can take in order to improve symptoms, as well as your quality of life. In order to access these treatments, however, you need to know what’s going on within your body and brain.
Today, we’re going to discuss how you would reach that stage, and what options may sooner be available.
How Alzheimer’s is Currently Diagnosed
At this time, there isn’t a single test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s. Patients undergo numerous tests, and then by process of elimination, Alzheimer’s will then be diagnosed. Even then, physicians lack tangle evidence. A true Alzheimer’s diagnosis can only be made by either a brain biopsy or after an autopsy has been performed. In this case, examiners would be looking for characteristic plaques and tangles.
With that being said, doctors can currently diagnose Alzheimer’s with 90 percent accuracy while a patient is still living. Dementia will be apparent — and then based on further examination, doctors can then identify whether or not those symptoms are being caused by Alzheimer’s.
As the research evolves, new tests are being introduced, which help increase accuracy. If you were to visit your doctor today, you would likely experience a similar process:
- You would undergo an initial assessment — Your doctor would ask you questions regarding your symptoms, including any medical history you may have. You may then undergo blood work, before being evaluated for a possible nervous system disorder. Your doctor would simply test your muscle tone, coordination, eye movement, etc. Mental tests may also be administered. If there is a reason for concern, you may then be referred to a specialist.
- Additional tests could follow — Depending on the series of events, you may then undergo additional testing, such as an EEG scan. This will help the specialist determine where the problem may be. Although not always necessary, you may undergo other scans, including a PET scan (to show how different areas of the brain respond) or a CT scan (which will take images of the brain).
- Ongoing assessment — If a diagnosis is confirmed, you will be asked to revisit your doctor as time passes. This will allow you to discuss any significant changes or problems. Remember, everyone is unique, so not everyone experiences the same prognosis. In this case, your doctor will help you with your general health — but may once again refer you to a specialist in order to combat specific difficulties.
If you’re thinking, there has to be a better way — researchers are uncovering potential clues, which could alter the diagnostic process as we now know it.
Could Your Eye Doctor Eventually Diagnose Alzheimer’s?
If there is one positive regarding Alzheimer’s, it’s that the whole world has already band together. Researchers and doctors around the globe are sharing their data and observations, in the hopes that we’ll soon find a cure.
Until then, we are constantly chipping away at this mystery — but where would your eye doctor come into play?
Well, based on a recent study, an optician may be able to spot signs long before this disease has progressed. Instead of waiting until an individual is displaying signs of memory loss or overall cognitive decline, a simple eye test may be the solution.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, believe that the thinning of the retina, could potentially indicate a neurodegenerative disease. This makes sense, as the eye is an extension and projection of the brain itself. Inexpensive and non-invasive, this eye-imaging techniques could detect frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) sooner, allowing for early intervention.
As you know, our brains are tucked away into our skull, making it much harder to examine. In comparison, our eyes provide a window into this complex organ, and may reveal signs we were never aware of before. While studying patients with FTD, it was found that the outer nuclear layer of the retina, was 10 percent thinner than the control subjects.
In addition, based on specialized equipment, researchers are also able to take snapshots of the retina. This then allows them to look for signs of amyloid — the hallmark protein linked to Alzheimer’s.
Although still in its early stages, this research brings to light the importance of regular eye examinations. When individuals undergo an eye exam every 2-3 years, opticians can actually pick up on a range of other potential conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and an increased risk of stroke — all which increase one’s risk of dementia.
Each and every day we’re learning something new about the brain, and Alzheimer’s in particular. A cure is, of course, the ultimate goal — but do not wait until this discovery occurs in order to take control.
Preventative measures are key at this point — focus on your physical health, in order to protect your mental health.