Long before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease become apparent to patients and their families, biological changes are occurring within the brain. Amyloid plaques, which are clusters of protein fragments, along with tangles of protein known as tau, form in the brain and grow in number, eventually getting in the way of the brain’s ability to function. These biological changes can be detected early in the course of Alzheimer’s disease through positron emission tomography (PET) scan or cerebrospinal fluid analysis.
Early Signs of Alzheimer
- Memory Loss
- Trouble planning and problem solving
- Daily tasks are a challenge
- Times and places are confusing
- Changes in vision.
- Words and conversations are frustrating
- You lose things
- Lapse in judgment
- Social withdrawal
- Mood changes
Early Detection Tests for Alzheimer’s Disease
- Biomarker test.A biomarker is something that can be measured to indicate the presence of a disease. Two proteins, beta-amyloid and tau, which are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s can be measured in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid). The fluid is examined for evidence of abnormal development of beta-amyloid proteins, which form plaques, and tau proteins, which form tangles. Both plaques and tangles are thought to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. These proteins can distinguish Alzheimer’s disease from other causes of dementia and may help identify people with the disease process before they have significant mental decline. They can support a test for Alzheimer’s, but are not yet used routinely for diagnosis.
- Brain imaging (neuroimaging).Researchers are studying imaging techniques, such as MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) scans, used with radiotracers. Radiotracers are charged particles that “light up” Alzheimer’s-affected areas in images of the brain — for example, by attaching to proteins, amyloid and tau, associated with Alzheimer’s disease. However, having amyloid plaques in the brain doesn’t mean you have dementia. Hence this is not a part of the treatment of dementia. For that, more study is needed.
- Cognitive assessment- Technology is also being used to develop software for computer-based assessments that detect cognitive changes and may be useful in the early treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Loss of odor identification tests- Some studies indicate that the ability to identify odors (olfactory impairment) declines with mild cognitive impairment and with progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease. Olfactory impairment has been associated with other diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, as well.
Early detection and tests for Alzheimer’s disease is an important goal. Early intervention with medications might slow disease progression and provide a treatment for Alzheimer’s.
Though there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease at this time. The symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can sometimes be treated with medications meant to help improve memory loss or decrease sleeping difficulties. Research is still being done on possible alternative treatments. The sooner you know, the better. Starting treatment may help relieve symptoms and keep you independent longer. It also helps you plan better. You can work out living arrangements, make financial and legal decisions, and build up your support network.