Mindy Kim-Miller, MD, PhD
Different forms of dementia have different pathologies (causes, processes, development, and consequences) and respond to different medications. Even within one type of dementia, there may be differences in pathologies that make one subtype more responsive to certain treatments than another. Correctly diagnosing the type of dementia and identifying individual differences in disease expression are very important for improving dementia care and refining treatment regimens to each individual. Additionally, it is important to detect dementia early in the disease process when symptoms are mild or not yet evident, with the hope of delaying or preventing disease progression. So how does one detect a disease before symptoms develop?
Advances in the detection of biomarkers (characteristics that can be measured and evaluated as indicators of biologic or disease processes or responses to treatment) can help with the early diagnosis and characterization of dementias.
Currently, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is often nonspecific and labored, as other disease processes need to be excluded before a diagnosis can be made. Even then, a specific diagnosis cannot always be made with confidence. Part of the problem is that few biomarkers are currently available for the evaluation of dementias. In addition, current brain imaging techniques are often underutilized. Lastly, the traditional criteria for diagnosis is outdated and do not incorporate newer biological characteristics of AD.
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