A Washington Post article of October 1, 2013 stated that approximately five million people suffer from Alzheimers disease in the United States. Misdiagnosis is common. The disease is frequently confused with dementia. Although the symptoms are similar, treatment is different.
Cause Of Alzheimers
The cause of Alzheimers disease is the deposit of protein fragments called beta amyloid in the spaces between the nerve cells. The diagnosis is typically through an autopsy. Now with increased scan capability, there are PET scans which with the use of radioactive dye show the presence of amyloid plaques. The FDA has approved this dye. Medicare however does not cover the scans. The scans themselves can cost $3,000 to $4,000. If the scan is negative that does rule out Alzheimer’s. If the scan is positive as to the presence of the amyloids, that does not necessarily mean that the person has Alzheimer’s but it certainly suggests a tendency to develop it. The physician must coordinate the results with the clinical findings.
Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimers
There are several signs/symptoms of Alzheimers disease:
- Memory loss disrupting daily life that is more than just sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later.
- Changing ability to plan or solve problems that is more significant than occasionally making errors when balancing a checkbook.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
- Confusion with time or place.
- Unable to understand visual images and spatial relationships.
- New problems with words either in ability to speak or write.
- Frequency of misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
- Decrease in judgment that is more serious than making that one bad decision once in a while.
- Withdrawing from work or social activities.
- Changing mood and personality.
Confusing Alzheimers with Arteriosclerosis
Arteriosclerosis is simply a hardening of the arteries which restricts the blood flow. That blood flow restriction means that less oxygen makes its way to the brain. Less oxygen to the brain creates symptoms that mimic those of Alzheimers and dementia. If the patient’s condition is simply arteriosclerosis, that may require diet changes or medication that is entirely different than what a doctor prescribes for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Available Drug Treatments for Alzheimers Disease
At present there are five different Alzheimers disease drugs including Aricept and Exelon. Both of these drugs however have limited effectiveness as they treat the symptoms of cognitive impairment and only stave off a decline for no more than a year.
Big Pharma has offered eight different drugs over the last 13 years to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. All of them have failed . There are other drugs that are running through trials to determine their effectiveness. At least one of the trials consists of people who may be predisposed to Alzheimer’s but are not currently showing any signs of such. The hope is that a trial of this nature will be more effective and will show the merits of this particular drug.