New medical guidelines issued this month by the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association divide Alzheimer’s Disease into three separate stages based on recent and substantial evidence that it begins taking hold of the brain well before the symptoms of dementia, the New York Times reports. The guidelines will lead to an earlier diagnosis of the disease.
The three stages include a phase when dementia has developed, a second stage when mild symptoms emerge but daily functions can be performed, and a third phase during which no symptoms are evident, but changes are taking place. It is the first time in 27 years that the definition of Alzheimer’s is changing, according to the Times article.
“We’re redefining Alzheimer’s disease and looking at this in a different way than had ever been done,” Creighton Phelps, director of the National Institute on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Disease Centers Program, told the New York Times. “I think we’re going to start to identify it earlier and earlier.”
A bill introduced in Congress this month would create specific Medicare cost codes for Alzheimer’s diagnosis, including steps involving discussions between the patient’s doctor and caregivers, a recognition that keeping family members well-informed can result in better planning and care, the Times writes. Further, “the biggest short-term impact is likely to biggest impact is likely to be seen with people who fall into the middle phase, those with mild cognitive impairment linked to Alzheimer’s. Experts say there are at least as many people experiencing this phase as the 5.4 million people estimated to have Alzheimer’s dementia. And they expect others to now ask their doctors if they are showing signs of mild impairment, which include experiencing some difficulty or inefficiency with memory, attention or other mental faculties, while still being able to function independently.”
Read the New York Times article.