COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
A doctor at MU Health Care is sharing the early signs to watch for when dealing with Alzheimer's disease.
The disease is usually found in people 65 years and older. Alzheimer's reportedly impacts the lives of more than 6 million Americans.
As of 2020, around 120,000 Missourians were diagnosed with the disease. The Alzheimer's Association predicts the number will rise by 8.3% to around 130,000 Missourians by 2025.
Alzheimer's is a disease that usually affects people 65 years and older. The disease reportedly impacts more than 6 million people in the U.S.
Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that impacts a person's memory, thinking, and behaviors. The Alzheimer's Association says symptoms eventually grow severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
"It causes a loss of cognitive function initially which is usually memory. Visual-spatial orientation that goes along with it and sometimes language difficulties and then it progresses to where they are unable to care for themselves," said MU Health Care neurologist Dr. David Beversdorf.
Dr. Beversdorf studied the disease for more than 20 years. He says behaviors that may indicate a possible problem can pop up in day-to-day activities.
"Significant memory difficulty is usually the first sign and so a person begins to repeat themselves quite a bit. Then your spatial orientation is also a problem. They get turned around and lost much more easily," said Dr. Beversdorf.
Dr. Beversdorf says other signs could be more serious.
"That could advance to not being able to drive because they can't find their way home, and language difficulties as well," said Dr. Beversdorf. "So, if they're having trouble, having an excessive amount of trouble coming up with words, more than typically should be expected with age, then that's a concern."
While there are clinical tests, Dr. Beversdorf says a family opinion may be just as credible as a test.
"If there's a very engaged family, and they say something's not right with dad or mom. Odds are they're correct. I find the families report to be more correct than some of the screening tests," said Dr. Beverdorf.
Beversdorf says there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease but says there are several drug treatments that have been around for at least 20 years including Donepezil, Rivastigmine, Galantamine, and Memantine.
Dr. Beversdorf says finding a cure would be life-changing for millions of people.
"If we can find a treatment that helps. This is going to be big. But we're still waiting and still hoping," said Dr. Beversorf.
Dr. Beversdorf says the first FDA-approved drug, Aducanumab, addresses the underlying biology of the disease and got provisional approval with only one positive study.
However, Dr. Beversdorf says he has faith the most recent drug Lecanemab could be life-changing.
"The new drug apparently has two positive studies, both on clinical outcome. The second study is the big confirmatory study," said Dr. Beverdorf. "We only have a press release, so we can't look at the details. But it did show an effect on its primary outcome measure."
The results of Lecanemab are scheduled to be published in the upcoming months but according to developers, patients taking the drug, showed a 27% decrease in cognitive decline compared to the control group.
The cost of treatment is also a factor when caring for someone with the disease.
The Alzheimer's Association says long-term care for someone with the disease can range anywhere from a little over $1,000 a week to over $100,000 a year depending on the type of care that best suits the patient's needs.