The first new guidelines in 27 years for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease could double the number of Americans defined as having the brain-robbing illness.
The guidelines, issued Tuesday by the Alzheimer’s Association and the U.S. National Institute of Aging, differ in two important ways from the last recommendations, which have been in use since 1984.
First, Alzheimer’s is now being recognized as a continuum of stages: Alzheimer’s itself with clear symptoms; mild cognitive impairment (MCI) with mild symptoms; and also the “preclinical” stage, when there are no symptoms but when recognizable brain changes may already be occurring.
Second, the new guidelines incorporate the use of so-called “biomarkers” — such as the levels of certain proteins in blood or spinal fluid — to diagnose the disease and assess its progress, but almost exclusively for research purposes only.
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