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The Debate Rages On: Should Patients Be Tested For Alzheimer’s?

At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Paris last week a long-discussed issue was once again debated: Whether patients should be tested for the disease. There were various press reports about this aspect of the conference.  

The conundrum seems to be this, namely what good does it do to tell a person they have an incurable disease?

At the conference there was news of new ways to detect Alzheimer’s, from quicker brain scans and eye and blood tests. That helped fueld the debate on testing.

Certain brain plaques are present in those who have Alzheimer’s, but this plaque can be present and detected many years before a person actually develops the disease. Or a person could die before even having any of the debilitating of symptoms of Alzheimer’s, symptoms that strike fear in the hearts of many Americans.   

 Right now, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. There are drugs that alleviate some of its symptoms, but no cure. Why worry people about something they will never experience, brain plaque or not?

Researchers who advocate the testing argue that it is a good way to eliminate those who have been misdiagnosed and don’t actually have Alzheimer’s. 

For example, researchers told the Associated Press that the elderly often have sleep problems that make them confused, which can be misread as Alzheimer’s, which is a form of dementia.

If such older people were tested, it would soon be apparent that they don’t have  Alzheimer’s, and they could get the correct medical treatment for what actually is ailing them.

I think it should be up to the patient whether or not they are tested. To be honest, I don’t know if I would submit to such a test.     


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