September 19, 2011

Dementia Cases Going Undiagnosed

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Most cases of Alzheimer's diagnosed at late stages

(dailyRx News) As many as 36 million worldwide are suffering from some type of dementia, yet about three quarters of them have not been diagnosed, partly because it is often falsely considered a normal part of aging.

According to the World Alzheimer's Report 2011, only between 20 percent to 50 percent of dementia cases, including Alzheimer's disease, are diagnosed in high-income countries. That percentage can be as low as 10 percent in low and middle-income countries.

"Seek a therapist if you get confused or become forgetful."

Worldwide, about $604 billion was spent on treating dementia last year and the number of cases of the disease are expected to triple by 2050, further compounding the price tag.

Dr. Daisy Acosta, chairman of Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), said that that a failure to diagnose Alzheimer's in a timely manner is a tragic missed opportunity that could improve the quality of life for millions.

There are interventions that are effective in the early stages of Alzheimer's, and some are more effective if treatment is started sooner. However, most with dementia receive a diagnosis at a late stage in the disease, resulting in a treatment gap that limits access to treatment, care, support and information.

As part of the first comprehensive review of all evidence on early diagnosis and early intervention for dementia, Martin Prince, a professor at the King's College London Institute of Psychiatry, commissioned a team of researchers for the project. He said while there is no way to close the treatment gap worldwide, he suggested that each country adopt strategies to promote early diagnosis and care.

Researchers found that the most common reason for late diagnosis is a faulty belief that dementia is part of the aging process and that nothing can be done to help. However, early intervention can improve quality of life and improve cognition and independence. In addition early diagnosis saves government agencies about $10,000 per patient in high-income countries.

In order to ensure that patients are diagnosed with dementia sooner, ADI suggests creating specialist diagnostic care centers and publicizing available interventions.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
September 16, 2011

Last Updated:
September 19, 2011