The diagnostic challenge

Are the dementia symptoms caused by Alzheimer’s Disease, or something else? Meeting the urgent need for accurate diagnostic tools in the community..
More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million.
Only 4 in 10 Americans would talk to their doctor right away when experiencing early memory or cognitive loss.
7 in 10 Americans would want to know early if they have Alzheimer's disease if it could allow for earlier treatment.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Nature of AD
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is characterized by a progressive loss of cognitive abilities, significantly impacting an individual's daily life.

Biological Indicators
A hallmark of AD is the presence of amyloid plaques and neurological tangles in the brain, usually confirmed upon autopsy.

Neuronal Damage and Brain Atrophy
In AD, the loss of cognitive abilities is caused by injury and ultimately death of neurons, leading to a breakdown in neuronal networks and resulting in significant brain shrinkage, known as brain atrophy which can be seen with brain imaging studies.

Diagnosis Challenges in Life
Because of the complexity of insults that cause synaptic loss and neuronal death, the presence of amyloid plaques or tangles found postmortem are not directly transferable to diagnosing AD during a person's life.

Distinguishing Dementia from AD

Definition of Dementia
Dementia is a general loss of cognitive functioning, including thinking, remembering, and reasoning, to a degree that interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.

Symptoms and Changes
Dementia can lead to loss of control over emotions and changes in personality.Diagnostic Measures: Dementia is often measured using standard psychometric tools such as the Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE) with a threshold of less than 27 out of 30.

Prevention and Contributing Factors
Up to 40% of dementia cases can be prevented by addressing common co-morbid conditions like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, or by making lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, addressing social determinants of health, or even wearing hearing aids.

Diagnostic Challenges and Misdiagnosis

Underdiagnosis of AD
Between 50% to 70% of symptomatic AD patients are not correctly diagnosed, especially in community settings. This lack of routine cognitive screenings contributes to the problem.

Early Stage Diagnosis Issues
Diagnosing the early stages of AD, particularly in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) but no dementia, is challenging.   Nearly 40% of dementia cases can be prevented by addressing modifiable risk factors.  These risk factors include common co-morbid conditions, such as uncontrolled diabetes or hypertension, or with lifestyle modifications, such as smoking cessation or using hearing aids.

Consequences of Misdiagnosis
Misdiagnosis leads to unnecessary care-seeking and costly investigations due to diagnostic uncertainty.

Common Misconceptions and Confusions

Symptoms Overlap
The symptoms of AD are often confused with a number of other medical conditions, some of which may be reversible.

Reversible Conditions
These conditions include Lyme disease, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid issues, depression, drug interactions, and other forms of dementia, which can all mimic the symptoms of AD.
How to offer the test to your patients

Here’s how to do it in 2 easy steps:

1. Download this form
2. Email the completed form to or fax the form to (301) 576-8629.
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