Early-Detection Alzheimer's Scans Look Promising
> 6/20/2008 11:46:26 AM

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that slowly wears away at the central nervous system, and research has established that early detection is a key element of all potential treatments. No true “cure” for the disorder exists today, but the earlier it can be identified the longer its effects can be held at bay. Under conservative estimates as many as 16 million Americans will suffer from Alzheimer’s by 2050. This week Australian researchers announced that they have conducted studies on a novel screening technique that could detect the disorder up to 18 months earlier than existing technology.

The research focuses on a new scanning method that can effectively detect the excessive presence of beta-amyloid plaques on the surface of the brain. These plaques are theorized to be the primary agents of Alzheimer’s as they confuse the brain’s massive neurological web and prevent basic messages from reaching their intended targets. The technology, called PiB-PET scanning, is similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and it has been tested in various laboratory situations for several years. This study, however, is among the first to truly hint at its potential as a diagnostic tool. Earlier research confirmed the ability of this scan to distinguish Alzheimer’s from general degeneration of the frontotemporal lobe, a condition that can create cognitive impairments very similar to those in Alzheimer’s cases. PiB-PET can quickly determine which cases qualify for Alzheimer’s diagnoses due to its ability to identify the beta-amyloid plaques.

The primary reason that this research is so crucial is that memory loss, the first significant symptom of the disease, may be difficult to detect in many cases. Subtle loss of memory is common to unaffected seniors, and isolated incidents are very easily dismissed. By the time symptoms present in most Alzheimer’s cases, the plaque’s presence has been well-established. The disease cannot yet be treated effectively, but if it is detected before overwhelming the central nervous system, doctors may attempt various experimental methods. Unfortunately, psychological tests are currently the most effective way to detect Alzheimer’s, and these are usually administered when a patient or family members have come to suspect the condition’s influence and reported it to a doctor. By the time it has been confirmed, its influence is too well-established to consider attempting any effective treatment.

Knowing that Alzheimer’s is present can also improve an affected individual’s ability to properly regulate behaviors like driving and to better arrange living conditions and end-of-life matters regarding finances and the roles of loved ones according to his or her own desires. This is not a fatalistic observation but a simple matter of convenience. Our collective battle against Alzheimer’s has only begun. Medications may be prescribed for various symptoms, but the disease cannot currently be treated so much as managed in order to make its victims as comfortable as possible in the waning years of their lives. Still, identifying its presence early in the process could have a considerable effect on quality of life issues for its victims. Most importantly, seniors and family members who suspect that Alzheimer’s or related dementia has begun to develop should not hesitate to seek a professional opinion. The condition cannot be erased, but that decision can make a big difference.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy