I was chatting with a friend in his late 60s. He was complaining about his memory and how his wife keeps telling him to see the doctor and get checked for Alzheimer's disease.
"What's the point in getting tested?" he said. "There's no cure. Why should I go looking for bad news if the doctors can't fix it anyway?"
Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are frightening diseases for aging adults. All it takes is a few memory slips, a lost set of keys or a forgotten appointment and we're filled with the terror of losing our mental faculties.
So, is my friend right to reject testing? Is blissful ignorance really better than being informed? I looked into the latest work being done on the disease and learned some encouraging news.
5 Reasons You Should See a Doctor if You Suspect Alzheimer's:
- It might look like Alzheimer's but not be Alzheimer's. The best reason to see the doctor and get tested is that you may actually have something else. Treatable conditions like depression, vitamin deficiency, urinary tract infections, and thyroid imbalance can mimic the symptoms of dementia.
- Early detection DOES make a difference. True, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. But if doctors can administer treatment early on, before symptoms emerge, it could delay or stop the disease from getting worse. At the very least, it may relieve some of the symptoms and let the patient be independent longer. On the other hand, if you wait until after the symptoms have started, the damage to the brain can't be undone.
- New diagnostic tests are being discovered. A study done last year at Johns Hopkins University discovered a new testing method that could diagnose Alzheimer's as early as five years before symptoms start. Experts say Alzheimer's actually begins to develop in the brain 10 years or more before there are outward signs. So an effective early detection test would allow patients to get treatment much sooner and slow the progress of the disease.
- New treatments are being discovered. There are currently 5 approved drugs on the market that relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Scientists are now focusing their efforts on developing drugs that actually stop or slow down the disease process. Learn about the latest research here.
- Early detection buys time. It means the diagnosed patient can take an active role in planning for his or her future -- decisions like health care, where to live, financial affairs etc. This gives them real control over their lives and is a big help to family members who won't have to guess what their loved one wants later on. It gives everyone a chance to adjust to the diagnosis and make plans.
In my research, I came across many other sources of information and support. An excellent place to start is the Alzheimer's Association website.
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