(NaturalNews) Alzheimer's researchers are pushing for the disease to be redefined so that treatment can begin years earlier than under current practices.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and can currently be conclusively diagnosed only with an autopsy. It already affects more than 26 million people around the world, and this number is expected to triple by 2050.
"The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are progressive mental deterioration characterized by an inability to carry out daily activities, a loss of cognitive functions, and a loss of memory functions," writes Tom Bohager in his book Everything You Need to Know About Enzymes.
"Extensive research studies indicate that the causes of Alzheimer's disease can include genetic factors, age, environmental factors, chronic exposure to aluminum and/or silicon, and increased oxidative damage due to long-term toxic exposure."
Dementia cannot currently be cured, but some drugs have been developed that attempt to slow its progression. Many of these drugs have limited effectiveness in the later stages of the disease, however, when symptoms have become severe.
For this reason, researchers from the International Working Group for New Research Criteria for the Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease published an article in The Lancet calling for a new definition of Alzheimer's.
Under the proposed definition, an Alzheimer's diagnosis could be made in any patient suffering from episodic memory impairment who also tested positive for at least one biomarker that scientists have associated with the disease.
Biomarkers are chemicals in the body that imply the presence of a certain condition. One of the most well-known biomarkers is the prostate specific antigen (PSA), which is correlated with inflammation of the prostate gland.
"It's very important for us to move from the old way of seeing Alzheimer's disease to a new one that incorporates the importance of biomarkers," said the working group's Bruno Dubois. "There is no longer a reason to wait until patients have developed full-blown dementia."