Updated Guidelines on Alzheimer’s Disease Call for Earlier Diagnosis
On Tuesday, NIH and the Alzheimer's Association released new guidelines that establish earlier stages of Alzheimer's disease and recommend that physicians diagnosis the disease earlier, the AP/USA Today reports.
The new recommendations, published in Alzheimer's and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, recognize the disease as a gradual mental decline.
The report states that the disease can be described in three phases, starting with early brain changes, then mild cognitive impairment and finally full-blown Alzheimer's (AP/USA Today, 4/19).
The guidelines are the first since 1984, when the disease was defined by one symptom: dementia. New understanding of the disease indicates that it can start progressing and affecting vision, literary skills and speech up to 10 years before dementia occurs (Cevallos, "Booster Shots," HealthKey/Los Angeles Times, 4/19).
The recommendations could have a significant effect on the reach of the disease in the U.S. About 5.4 million U.S. residents have Alzheimer's. The new guidelines could double the number of people who are diagnosed, according to the report.
Health officials hope the recommendations will help patients and their families prepare financially, logistically and emotionally for the disease. Further, advocates and physicians hope Alzheimer's will be treated more like heart disease, in which patients at increased risk can be identified early. They also hope more patients who are diagnosed in early stages volunteer for medical research, including research on biological markers for the disease (Stein, Washington Post, 4/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.