Alzheimer's disease: Why it often gets misdiagnosed

New evidence has emerged suggesting that those with Alzheimer's disease, who also experience some types of psychotic episodes, have a 50 percent higher change of being misdiagnosed than those who don't have a secondary diagnosis. In such cases, they note it's commonplace for these Alzheimer's patients to be diagnosed as having dementia with Lewy bodies.

Alzheimer's disease is considered a type of dementia itself. However, recent brain imaging studies of patients with known cases of Alzheimer's disease has led researchers to better distinguish it from a Lewy bodies diagnosis. As a result of their recent discoveries, scientists have come to realize that treatments created to combat these illnesses will need to be different to have the desired impact.

In trying to understand more about dementia with Lewy Bodies and how it gets improperly labeled as Alzheimer's disease, researchers found that the latter is misdiagnosed at a rate of 24 percent. They also found that patients are provided with false negative or false positive results in at least 12 percent of all Alzheimer's cases.

As for the misdiagnosis rate, this number is much higher than what was previously reported. Just a few years ago, the rate of Alzheimer's misdiagnosis was estimated to be as little as 12 percent.

When it comes to the high rate of misdiagnosis in Alzheimer's cases, researchers found that doctors are least apt to feel comfortable diagnosing a patient with a debilitating disease when it's also suspected that they might have psychosis. Although psychotic behaviors, such as hallucinations or delusions, can be associated with Alzheimer's, it often accompanies dementia, namely the Parkinson's and Lewy bodies varieties.

The researchers found that, more often than not, the patient's true diagnosis of Alzheimer's was only discovered when autopsies were performed. It's then that researchers found some of the more typical physical manifestations of the disease in the patient's brains.

The researchers emphasize, however, the importance of trying to pinpoint the condition the patient is afflicted with while they're alive. In doing so, they can address the underlying issues that cause the illness and treat it more appropriately.

If you suspect that your loved one has not received the proper care they deserve either because of a false positive, false negative, or misdiagnosis, then a Tucson medical malpractice attorney might be able to help.

Source: News Medical, "Study highlights rate of misdiagnosis in Alzheimer's disease patients with psychosis," June 30, 2017

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