Early Diagnosis Helpful in Slowing Early-Onset Dementia

Early Diagnosis Helpful in Slowing Early-Onset Dementia - Twenty years ago, when Linda Johnson set up at health fairs, people would spot her booth, "and you could see the fear in their eyes, just seeing the word 'Alzheimer's'," she said.

Johnson, director of programs for Alzheimer's Tennessee Inc., still hears fear in the voices of people who call her office for help. But she has some hope to offer them: better treatments, education, support.

In particular, over the past 15 years, medications have improved for people diagnosed with "early-onset Alzheimer's," a term used for progressive dementia that begins before age 65. Most people diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's are in their 40s and 50s, though some are in their 30s. It accounts for only 5 percent to 10 percent of all Alzheimer's disease cases.

Early on, people may have difficulty with language, mixing up words. Later, they may fail to recognize something they should: a favorite restaurant, an article of clothing. They may start to have difficulty performing complex tasks, such as bookkeeping.

Many times, it's the co-workers of people with early-onset Alzheimer's who notice something is wrong, Johnson said, because most people are taxed with more complex tasks at work than at home.

"It's very important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible," she said, to rule out other things that sometimes cause dementia — vascular problems, for example, some blood clots and tumors, iron deficiency.

People in this area usually go for an assessment at Cole Neuroscience Center at the University of Tennessee Medical Center or Mercy Health Partners' GAP — Geriatric Assessment Program — in the Mercy Medical Tower on Blount Avenue, Johnson said.

Starting medications, which can slow memory loss and other symptoms, early is key, Johnson said. Though expensive, they're covered by many insurance policies and Medicare, and patient assistance programs can help the uninsured.

"It can slow down the progression for years, in certain individuals," Johnson said, though there is no cure.

But then, there's the maxim Johnson heard from a trainer: "If you've seen one Alzheimer's case, you've seen one Alzheimer's case."

She knows a person who lived with Alzheimer's for 25 years, another who had only 18 months. Ten years seems to be average.

About half of early-onset Alzheimer's cases are linked to the mutation of certain genes, which means people can have a hereditary disposition to the disease. The other half of cases are similar to later-onset Alzheimer's, and it's not clear why they begin earlier in life.


1 Respones to "Early Diagnosis Helpful in Slowing Early-Onset Dementia"

aYoShare said...

nice posting bozz... :)

August 25, 2011 at 3:42 PM

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