Alzheimer's disease is a disease that destroys brain cells. The destruction
of cells causes a decline in mental functions that affect memory, thinking,
language and behavior. Early symptoms may include difficulty in performing
everyday tasks or remembering common words. Confusion and difficulty with
reasoning are other frequent symptoms. As the disease progresses, victims
of Alzheimer's disease become increasingly disoriented, anxious and
agitated, until they can no longer perform the most basic tasks in their
own care. While the disease can occur in people in their 40s and 50s,
it most commonly affects those aged 65 and older.
PET and Alzheimer's
A PET scan can show the brain's biological changes attributable to
Alzheimer's disease before any other diagnostic test. Alzheimer's
disease can even be detected several years earlier than the onset of symptoms.
Early detection and confirmation of Alzheimer's disease allows for:
- Early drug therapy to slow the loss of the patient's ability to function.
- Future planning before loss of mental capacity.
- Positive and accurate diagnosis of other dementing processes, chronic depression
and normal aging.
- Help in the discovery and development of new therapies.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease but a number of new drug treatments
are being developed. Recently, the FDA approved a drug for Alzheimer's
disease that affects the chemical systems of the brain. If this drug is
administered early in the course of memory loss, it delays progression
of symptoms in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Additional drug
studies are underway, which hopefully will bring about more substantial
improvements in the course of the disease.
||PET is a test that may diagnose Alzheimer's early enough to make full
use of drug therapies, reassure fearful patients who might not have the
disease, or redirect treatment for other conditions.