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Early Diagnois

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer
(Page 2 of 3)

Researchers are also pursuing the development of a blood test to screen for an individual with Alzheimer’s by looking for certain proteins in the blood called biomarkers. The goal of a successful biomarker test would enable doctors to detect Alzheimer’s before the symptoms appear.   Another example of an Alzheimer’s screener is an eye test that would act as a diagnostic tool.

Early Treatment Counts

For someone with Alzheimer’s, changes have occurred in their brain possibly even 20 years prior to diagnosis.  With an early diagnosis, or even pre-diagnosis, as researchers are hoping to have in the next decade, treatment options can be tailored to a more preventive focus.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, a loved one may experience increased irritability, depression or anxiety. These typically are the result of increased confusion and memory loss, but yet the ability to know they can’t focus as well.  For behavioral-type symptoms, there are medications available to assist. They can be targeted to a specific symptom of the disease. However, looking for reasons behind the behavior and addressing those may be just as successful for a caregiver.

Many times, the person is overwhelmed, by a setting or even a conversation they just can’t participate in at the level they used to. A loved one will benefit greatly by managing these “trigger” situations. Find out what makes a loved one “tick” so to speak, and avoid those at all costs. Between fear, and then mental and physical fatigue, the wrong setting can set a person into another door of frustration. A calm, friendly environment is usually the best medicine for someone with Alzheimer’s, even in the early days.

For the physical symptoms of memory loss, confusion and problems with thinking/reasoning, medication is the current mainstay. Two types are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, etc.) and memantine (Namenda). Current medications can’t stop the progression of the disease, but can lessen or stabilize the symptoms for a period of time in some people.  Many caregivers report frustration with the current medications, feeling that they are doing little or nothing to help their loved ones, especially over a period of time when the disease continues to progress despite the medication.

The other treatment measure for early Alzheimer’s comes in the form of sleep management. A loved one with this condition will most likely have a change in sleep patterns and difficulty with sleep. While scientists still do not understand why, they do know the “what.” People tend to wake up more and stay awake longer during the night. Brain wave studies show a decrease in dreaming and non-dreaming sleep stages.

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