Since it's the sixth-leading cause of death in America, according to the Alzheimer's Association, the early detection of Alzheimer's disease could save many lives.
According to new research from the American Academy of Neurology, studying reflexes during a neurological exam could be a major indicator of changes in memory and cognition. The research group said that many reflexes that disappear after infancy reappear in Alzheimer's patients and can be tested for the early onset of Alzheimer's disease.
These reflexes include the suckling or rooting reflex which is triggered when the lips are touched, the glabellar reflex, which causes people to blink uncontrollably when their eyebrows are touched, the grasp reflex, a reflex in which a person grabs anything put into their hand, and the palmomental reflex, causing the scratching of the palm and hand.
The Alzheimer's Association also shares 10 signs of early Alzheimer's Disease to look out for. These include:
- Memory changes that disrupt daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images
- Problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing objects
- Decreased judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
Early detection has many benefits for an Alzheimer's patient. It allows them a better understanding of what they are going through before it gets bad enough that they are oblivious to the disease and its effects. Mainly, though, it gives family members and patient the opportunity to explore every treatment option available to ensure the patient leads the best life possible.
"By getting diagnosed late in the progression of the disease, opportunities are being missed to make key decisions about treatment, care and future planning," Alexandra Dillon, associate director at the Great Plains of the Alzheimer's Association, told the Gothenburg Times. "Being diagnosed early is vital to receiving the best help and care possible."
Advancement in the detection of early onset of Alzheimer's would help prevent hardship for many people. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, according to the Association, and about $200 billion in care is estimated to be paid out in 2012. The early detection of Alzheimer's disease would not only save families and patients money in care, but it would also save lives.