While dementia is traditionally diagnosed via a series of cognitive tests and perhaps a brain scan, there have been several recent breakthroughs which could soon start to make the diagnosis process a whole lot easier. Here’s a round-up of the latest developments.
A blood test which can diagnose Alzheimer’s is currently being developed by British scientists and a trial of 1,148 elderly patients has revealed it to be 88 per cent accurate. Larger studies are still needed but the test could be available on the NHS within five years.
Speech patterns and vocal differences have already been shown to detect signs of Parkinson’s disease with 99 per cent accuracy, and research to find a vocal test which may be able to detect dementia is already being carried out in the US. The study involves hooking up people living with dementia to a brain scan and microphone while they perform vocal tasks. Vocal differences between normal ageing adults and those with dementia should then be revealed. The research will be completed next year.
A test based on a person’s saliva might become a way to diagnose dementia. A recent study found that the saliva of people with Alzheimer’s had different levels of certain substances compared to the saliva of healthy people or those with mild cognitive impairment. While more research is needed, experts agree that the findings show promise.
Personal DNA testing kits which claim to reveal anyone’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are now widely available to buy over-the-counter or online, but experts remain sceptical about their accuracy and worth.
A 15-minute test
US researchers have devised a 15-minute test, which can reveal early signs of mental decline that might suggest Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The Self Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE) can be taken at home and the results are said to closely match detailed diagnostic tests carried out by experts.
A 3-minute test
Recently unveiled by US researchers, this short test was devised to detect the second most common form of dementia – Lewy Body Dementia. It has the potential to speed up the diagnosis process of this condition (which can sometimes be mistaken for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s) by as much as 18 months.