Doctors Misdiagnose Half Of Those With Early Alzheimer's Disease

Scientists 'need to look for biomarkers as indicators of Alzheimer's disease....": image via scumdoctor.comScientists 'need to look for biomarkers as indicators of Alzheimer's disease....": image via scumdoctor.comResearchers at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, Spain have uncovered a sad truth about early onset Alzheimer's disease - that more than half of those who develop it are misdiagnosed because they exhibit symptoms not customarily associated with Alzheimer's.

Symptoms like vision problems, inability to complete tasks, behavior, sudden mood changes, or language problems...  “People who develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease often experience these atypical symptoms rather than memory problems, which can make getting an accurate diagnosis difficult,” study researcher Albert Llado, MD, PhD, said.

The researchers reviewed the cases of 40 persons, aged 40 to 60,  whose brains at autopsy showed they had Alzheimer's disease.  After reviewing the medical history of these persons, they learned that of those with confirmed early Alzheimer's disease, about 38 percent appeared with symptoms other than memory loss and 53 percent were initially misdiagnosed as having other disorders, such as behavioral variant frontotemporal lobar degeneration, normal pressure hydrocephalus, semantic dementia, primary progressive aphasia, corticobasal degeneration, pseudodementia with depression, and unclassifiable dementia.

Only 4 percent of those with memory problems were misdiagnosed. 

Even more surprising is that at the time of their deaths 47 percent of those who did not exhibit memory problems were still incorrectly diagnosed, although the average length of the disease before death was 11 years.

This study stresses the importance of recognition of early onset AD, which generally hits persons between the ages of 40 and 60.  Of particular importance is recognition in those persons who exhibit non-memory related symptoms of the disease.  With proper diagnosis, these patients could begin a medical and behavioral treatment program and possibly delay the more life-interrupting symptoms associated with mid and late stages of the disease.

Llado concluded that "scientists need to look for biomarkers as indicators of Alzheimer’s disease so that misdiagnoses won’t happen so often."

This research is published in the May 17, 2011 edition of the journal Neurology.
Sources: Neurology. WebMD