New Home Test Can Detect Early Alzheimer's Symptoms

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Ohio researchers have developed a test administered at home to detect early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Early detection could help patients receive any potential treatments at an earlier stage of the disorder.

The 15-minute test is the end product of researchers from Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, according to Medical News Today. They published their findings in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences.

Among the various types of dementia, Alzheimer's is the most common. More than 5 million Americans suffer from this illness, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Estimates suggest that by 2050, the disorder will cost this country $1.2 trillion. It's currently the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

Each patient has one of two types of Alzheimer's disease, PubMed Health states. Those with early-onset disease show symptoms prior to age 60. This is the rarer type. Patients at least 60 years old when symptoms appear have late-onset Alzheimer's, which sometimes has a hereditary pattern.

Scientists call the new test, taken with pen and paper, the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE). It includes four forms that are interchangeable to assess a patient's orientation, language, reasoning/computation, and visuospatial (3D construction and clock drawing) abilities. This test also measures problem-solving and memory abilities.

The maximum score for any patient is 22 points. A score of 16 or lower might indicate the need to visit a clinician for additional evaluation.

The researchers determined that around 95 percent of those who show no cognitive impairment will achieve normal scores. SAGE will detect cognitive issues in approximately four out of every five individuals with mild impairments. When the researchers asked 1,047 people at least 50 years old to take the test, results showed that 28 percent of those individuals showed symptoms of cognitive impairment.

All subjects who took the test received their scores, plus information about the exam. Researchers advised each to give the results to their healthcare providers in order to get any additional screening. When compared to outcomes of detailed cognitive testing, the results of the self-administered Ohio State test had a very high correlation.

The test has definite advantages. It requires no time for administrative set up and can fairly easily screen a large group at the same time. The results indicate that individuals can take the short exam in nearly any setting, including in their homes.

The researchers point out that SAGE doesn't diagnose Alzheimer's. It detects mild cognitive impairment associated with early stages of the disease and should serve as a screening device. When administered at intervals, it can alert experts to changes in a patient's cognitive ability that require attention. The anticipated benefit of this test is that earlier detection of the signs of Alzheimer's disease will result in earlier treatment for affected individuals.

Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.

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