Would you want a blood test to diagnose Dementia early?

Posted by Patricia Wakeford on

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I was interested to hear on the news and read about recent advances which may enable early diagnosis of dementia before signs and symptoms develop.

If you're becoming increasingly forgetful, particularly if you're over the age of 65, it may be a good idea to talk to your GP about the early signs of dementia (also known as Alzheimer's disease).

The question arises; would you want to know that you were going to get dementia? New research shows that something as simple as a blood test can easily pick up signs of early dementia. Doctors say that a simple change in blood may signify dementia in its earliest stages.

The Nature Medicine Journal states that these new findings have potential for developing treatment strategies for dementia at an earlier stage - when therapy would be more effective at slowing or preventing most of the symptoms. A study, also published in The Nature Medicine Journal, identified 10 molecules in blood that could be used to predict with at least 90% accuracy whether people will go on to develop dementia.

If you had the choice to find out if you were going to get dementia, would you want to know? What would you do with the new found information and what would you want to see happen in the future regarding treatment, prevention or immunisation?

Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society, added: "Having such a test would be an interesting development, but it also throws up ethical considerations." If this does develop in the future people must be given a choice about whether they would want to know, and fully understand the implications." This research could also give clues on how Alzheimer's disease occurs and warrants further study, but as such a small number of people showed symptoms there need to be larger studies with different populations before it could be turned into a blood test for Alzheimer's disease."

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at charity Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "Alzheimer's disease begins to develop long before symptoms such as memory loss appear, but detecting the disease at this pre-symptomatic stage has so far proved difficult.

"More work is needed to confirm these findings, but a blood test to identify people at risk of Alzheimer's would be a real step forward for research."

Would I want to know early that I was going to develop dementia? As a teenager; I think I would probably like to know, purely because it would mean less worry and confusion when it did happen. It is hoped that doctors and scientists may find a cure with the information from the blood tests and the extra time before people develop the condition. I am also for the idea of an early diagnosis as the method of testing is quite simple and straight forward. A worried patient could simply have a blood test which the doctors could then use to determine the signs of dementia as early as possible.

My colleague Patricia Wakeford is a little older than a teenager and with the present state of research would not want an early blood test. She does agree that if there was a cure; the earlier you know the better.

Researched by Becca Heath with the assistance of Patricia Wakeford, Associate, Clinical Negligence.

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About the Author

Photograph of Patricia Wakeford

Patricia is a Senior Associate, in our Clinical Negligence team, and is also a qualified midwife with many years of experience working in the NHS.

Patricia Wakeford
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023 8085 7310

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