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Failure to diagnose Alzheimer's can worsen symptoms, delay care

Alzheimer's disease is one of the most devestating illnesses that can affect people in Chicago or anywhere in the world. It is the sixth-highest cause of death in the U.S., and among the top 10 it is the only one that cannot be cured, prevented or even slowed down. Anyone who has lost a family member to Alzheimer's know how terrible the illness, which robs people of their memories and cognitive ability, can be.

Current medical treatments allow doctors to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer's to make patients' lives as comfortable as possible. Early diagnosis is the key, but sometimes doctors misdiagnose the signs of Alzheimer's as another illness like Parkinson's disease can delay or prevent that early intervention.

As a result, patients can suffer more acute symptoms needlessly when they could be enjoying a relatively higher quality of life with slowed-down decreases in brain function.

Alzheimer's experts caution against self-diagnosis, especially online tests, which they say are not very accurate. However, those who suspect they or a loved one may be showing signs of Alzheimer's disease should look for the following symptoms before seeing a doctor:

  • Disruptive changes in memory
  • Trouble making plans, completing familiar tasks or solving problems
  • Confusion over time, location, images or spatial reasoning
  • Changes in ability to speak or write
  • Decreased judgment or changes in mood or personality

Be sure that the doctor is aware of these sorts of changes to avoid the possibility of misdiagnosis as much as possible. Alzheimer's is a terrible illness but its effects can be lessened at least temporarily with an accurate early diagnosis.

Source: CNN, "The 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's," Ben Tinker, July 18, 2013

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