Doctors Question Alzheimer’s Test

According to the Alzheimer’s Association every 65 seconds someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Thomas Clark, a neurologist at Desert Regional Medical Center says the diagnosis is life altering, “If somebody has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s devastating, devastating to the family. If it’s truly Alzheimer’s disease and it runs its natural course they’re going to lose more and more of who they are.”

When he his colleague Dr. Kevin Attenhofer heard about an ongoing study published in the Journal of Nature Medicine that says doctors may predict the disease a decade before symptoms appear with a test that measures the accumulation of a protein in the blood they had serious reservations.

“First of all this was a study that was published in a small journal before that test if it proved to be accurate if it were every it was introduced to the market you’re talking about a number of years,” says Dr. Clark.

The study says of the 243 people who found to have increasing levels of the protein 13 already developed the disease but these doctor say even if the test were more accurate they don’t see a benefit to getting a positive diagnosis, yet.

“We still have to live in the world where we don’t have good medicines to treat Alzheimer’s and it would be a ticking clock in the background,” says Dr. Attenhofer.

“And I think issues such as insurance companies denying benefits or coverage all those things would come into play,” says Dr. Clark adding that and other issues raise many ethical questions and he would not recommend a healthy, young person get the test because it would be a mistake to burden them with a diagnosis they can do nothing about.

Dr. Clark says even a family history of the disease may not be accurate and something more productive is to get an evaluation by a neurologist if you notice memory decline, “Unfortunately a lot of people in the community equate Alzheimer’s disease with any disorder that causes memory problems the idea is to understand the process in that individual person and diagnose it properly,” adding that there’s a lot of diseases that mimic Alzheimer’s, that’s why it’s important to get evaluated by a neurologist. 

Dr. Attenhofer says in the end it’s a personal choice but he would pass, “Personally, I wouldn’t want the test because I want to live my life and not live in fear or anxiety of what could come or what could happen I think life throws enough curve balls.”

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