Alzheimer's misdiagnosed up to 50% of the time

New studies show a serious problem in diagnosing Alzheimer's, with some dementia's greatly treatable Photo: wikicommons

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2013 — Recent studies shows up to 50 percent of Alzheimer’s diagnosis are wrong and part of the reason is convenience. Alzheimer’s has become an umbrella term for all forms of dementia yet can only be ascertained with a degree of accuracy with a spinal tap and an MRI.  Post-mortem (after death) examinations make a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s a certainty.

With over five million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, misdiagnosis can run into large numbers.

The process of diagnosing specific causes of dementia has always been a difficult and complex process. Many forms of dementia can be vastly improved with corrective procedures, but may never come to light if Alzheimer’s is the medical tag a patient receives.

Diagnosis of dementia becomes prevalent after the age of 60 with Alzheimer’s being the most significant and common cause. But for those with poor oxygen or blood flow that can improve with medications and/or surgery, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can impede improvement or interfere with progress that could, under certain circumstances, restore one to living a fulfilling life.

A good example of a very treatable condition with similar symptoms is Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus or NPH. Those with NPH have bladder control issues and severe forgetfulness but the difference is in a patients gait. Those with NPH cannot lift their feet off the ground and they shuffle.

While shuffling is a sign of NPH, many doctors miss this symptom and NPH can go undiagnosed up to 90 percent of the time.

The Alzheimer’s Association has posted the 10 warning signs of having this insidious disease as:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or in solving problems
  3. Difficulty in completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion about time or of place
  5. Trouble understanding visual or spatial relationships
  6. Newly onset problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing he ability to retrace steps.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal form work or social activities

10.  Changes in mood and personality

Normal aging types of changes may include such signs as making an occasional bad decision, missing a monthly payment, momentarily forgetting which day it is, forgetting a word to use and losing things from time to time. These sorts of things are not alarming.

A form of Alzheimer’s known as early onset Alzheimer’s is recognized by the same set of symptoms but can start earlier than 65 years of age. This form of Alzheimer’s affects about five to 10 percent of Alzheimer’s victims and little is understood of its cause and origin.

In some cases, non-familial related early onset Alzheimer’s has been known to affect folks at age 35 to 40 but this is rare. The life expectancy is seven to eight years from diagnosis.

If you or a loved one begins to recognize signs of Alzheimer’s, set an appointment preferably with a geriatric physician, psychologist, psychiatrist or neurologist.

There are a myriad of medications to forestall advancing symptoms and help slow the process of Alzheimer’s.


Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association or Psychological Science.




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