Doctors Better at Detecting Early Alzheimer's: Then What?

Patients demand to know, but no treatment is available
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2010 9:40 AM CST
File photo illustration.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The good news on Alzheimer's is that doctors are getting better at figuring out who's likely to get the disease years—even decades—in advance of its onset. The bad news is that with no treatment available, the diagnosis has no medical value to the patient, and likely results in years of anxiety. “We are just confronting this,” the director of the National Institute on Aging tells the New York Times. “Bioethicists are talking with scientists and the public about what is the right thing to do.”

The dilemma extends to other diseases as diagnostic tests improve across the board, but Alzheimer's is especially acute because of the nation's aging population and patients' demand to know. “I am grappling with that issue,” a neurologist tells the Times. “I give them the diagnosis—we are getting pretty good at diagnosis now. But it’s challenging because what do we do then?"

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