Is It Alzheimer’s?
BY: Dr. Edward Pullen
There are few medical problems more dreaded or feared than Alzheimer’s disease. And when someone comes to me expressing concern about an aging loved one’s mental state, I would love to be able to give clear-cut answers. But the truth is Alzheimer’s is what physicians call a diagnosis of exclusion. This means there is no definitive test that will tell us if it’s Alzheimer’s or not. Instead, we physicians make the diagnosis based on the signs and symptoms, and after ruling out all other possible diagnoses.
When it comes to spotting early Alzheimer’s symptoms, family and close friends are in a unique position. In a recent study from Washington University in St. Louis, researchers found that family and close friends may be better at identifying early Alzheimer’s than standard screening tests conducted in a doctor’s office. What this means is that if you suspect a problem, don’t blow it off. Your suspicions may very well be correct. Warning signs that may point to a possible problem include:
- Experiencing memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Having difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Feeling uncertain about time and place
- Getting confused when trying to solve a problem, make plans or follow directions
- Misplacing things or having trouble retracing steps
- Making questionable or bad decisions
- Withdrawing socially
It’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s is a slow, progressive problem that rarely shows up suddenly. In addition, depression can mimic these symptoms and needs to be considered as well. If concerns about a loved one have you wondering about Alzheimer’s, take the first step and talk to a doctor. While treatments are only somewhat effective in slowing progression of the disease, help is available.