Hyderabad: To diagnose Alzheimer’s at an early stage is a challenge even for doctors as studies have shown that Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging are useful but not definite.
Dr M. Jayasree, consultant neurologist, explains that the early scans do not give a definite indication that the grey areas will later develop into a full blown Alzheimer’s. “Study of cerebral blood flow and metabolism may show a diminished activity, which can be taken as a sign of Alzheimer’s, but it is properly diagnosed only in the stage 2 and stage 3, when the patient comes with complaints of severe forgetfulness, phobia and irritability.”
Most patients in urban India seek medical help when the disease becomes severe. This is because the symptoms of forgetfulness, irritability, anxiety and delusion are taken to be a natural sign of aging. Only when day to day activities, such as eating meals on time, washing of hands, forgetting one’s own address and other such symptoms develop, that the family seeks medical advice.
Dr Pranav Kumar, senior consultant neurosurgeon, agrees that “we see patients at a very severe stage of the disease, when their normal functionality is affected.”
At this stage the family has to take care of the patient, who may not be able to control movement. “In many cases, the person does not remember his/her children and relatives. This is a traumatic time for the family,” Dr Kumar says.
The most important factor in managing an Alzheimer’s patient at home is taking care of hygiene as the patient’s toilet habits are inappropriate. Full time care is required, which can cost quite a lot.
The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in India is 125 new cases per 1,00,000 population above 60 years of age. But this figure is understated as only patients in urban areas come for treatment. Those in small towns and rural areas are not accounted for and do not make it to the hospitals. The Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India stated that 40.31 lakh people suffer from Alzheimer’s in India and the number will increase to 67.43 lakh by 2030. The society has started support groups to impart knowledge about the disease but the outreach is limited.