Alzheimer’s is a devastating chronic neurodegenerative disease. The progressive mental deterioration associated with Alzheimer’s impacts basic bodily functions such as walking and swallowing and eventually leads to death. Diagnosing Alzheimer’s can be a challenge due to the lack of a specific test to identify it and also because many other diseases have similar symptoms including dementia, Parkinson’s or other cerebrovascular diseases. A recent Washington Post article (“I lived with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis for years. But a recent test says I may not have it after all.”), highlights the difficulty of diagnosing Alzheimer’s, particularly early onset Alzheimer’s and how devastating such a diagnosis can be. The subject of the article, Mark Ellenbogen, began having memory and cognitive issues at age 39 and was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. Ten years later one doctor said he had Alzheimer’s and another said he had dementia. Now it turns out he likely does not have Alzheimer’s, but instead falls into a category of non-Alzheimer’s pathophysiology, or SNAP.
The important point from the article is to take full advantage of all the medical options and tools available as the medical field struggles to better understand, diagnose and treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.