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    Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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    Millions Worldwide Have Undiagnosed Alzheimer's

    Report by Alzheimer's Disease International Highlights Undertreatment of Dementia

    Benefits of Early Treatment continued...

    "A key goal of this report is to raise awareness about the importance of early detection," he says. "It is important to know the warning signs for Alzheimer's and if you see these warning signs get to a physician for evaluation."

    Egge says memory loss that disrupts daily life should not be accepted as a normal part of aging.

    Among the other early signs that could be cause for concern:

    • Having problems completing familiar tasks.
    • Losing track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time.
    • Having trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
    • Having new trouble following or engaging in conversation.
    • Changes in mood and personality, and a new lack of interest in hobbies and social activities.

    Early diagnosis can benefit patients and family members, Egge says, by giving them more time to plan for future needs.

    It could also identify people for studies who are in the very earliest stages of the disease when drug treatments are most likely to work.

    Neurologist and Alzheimer's researcher Marc L. Gordon, MD, agrees that it will be increasingly important to identify patients early in the course of their disease as new treatments become available.

    Gordon is chief of neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. "We are hoping to have drugs that are truly disease modifying, but in order to test them we will need to find people in the earliest stages and people who have a high risk for developing dementia," he says. "We aren't there yet, but we are looking at a number of markers that could help us do this."

    Effectiveness of Alzheimer's Drugs

    Gordon says while the current drug treatments don't work for all patients, they do seem to help some.

    "These medications have been shown to have a symptomatic benefit, albeit modest," he says. "If I were a patient with Alzheimer's disease, I would want to be on one of the available drugs."

    But gerontologist R. Knight Steel, MD, contradicts some of the report, saying he is not so sure about the effectiveness of current drugs for early Alzheimer's disease.

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