Is an Early Alzheimer's Diagnosis Worth It?
With no treatment available, it could cause unnecessary heartache
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2012 11:25 AM CDT
Is an early Alzheimer's diagnosis worth it?   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Advances in medical testing allow Alzheimer's disease to be diagnosed earlier than ever before—sometimes even before symptoms occur. But one man says that his wife's testing, which yielded a diagnosis at age 56, "was the biggest mistake of my life." Linda Dangaard is still the same in many ways, still able to work at the family business, but has lost friends, self-esteem, and her driver's license. "Her golden years were ripped out from under her by a diagnosis that I think is cruel, because there's nothing anybody can do about it," husband Colin tells the Wall Street Journal.

More people will likely have to struggle with the Dangaards' decision, the Journal notes, since a cure—or even preventative treatment—is still not available. New tests, including a spinal tap and one involving radioactive dye and a PET scan, can reveal the plaques and tangles Alzheimer's causes in the brain as many as 20 years before symptoms appear. Though there are concerns, experts say people who are already having memory problems—like Dangaard, who noticed her own tendency to repeat herself—would do well to get tested, in case they are actually suffering from a different, treatable condition.