Using PET Scans for early detection of Alzheimer’s Dementia
A convenient and effective procedure to detect Alzheimer’s at its earliest stage
If you’ve noticed that your sweetheart has changed their personality or behaviour, such as showing signs of aggressiveness and stubbornness, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you anymore, but that they might be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s affects a person’s memory, mood and behaviour. And, over time, a person with Alzheimer’s has trouble thinking, remembering, speaking, learning, making judgments and planning. They are often moody, restless, and sometimes mean.
Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease. The cause of the illness has not yet been discovered, but scientists believe that it may take a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environment factors to trigger the onset on Alzheimer’s. As the most common form of dementia, it accounts for approximately 60% of all cases, whereas Non-Alzheimer’s dementia including; fronto-temporal dementia, Lewy body dementia and vascular dementia etc.
Age is also one of the most important risk factors for Alzheimer’s. The disease usually shown up when people over 65, but the disease onset start from the age of 40. Approximately 10% of people aged 65 have Alzheimer’s, and that figure jumps to nearly 50% for people 85 and older. What’s more, women are more likely to develop the disease than men because they live longer.
Dr. Yotin Chinvarun M.D. Ph.D., a consultant neurologist and specialists in PET imaging at Bangkok Hospital, explained how Alzheimer’s develops and how to catch the disease at its earliest stage.
“Recently, researchers discovered that almost 90% of Alzheimer’s sufferers have amyloid plaques accumulating on their exterior of brain cells, which destroy the synapses and conduction of nerve impulses. Amyloid plaques are abnormal structures composited with beta-amyloid protein. Genetic mutations of beta-amyloid cause the formation of amyloid plaques.”
Since the human body can’t break down these clumps of plaque, they start to grow in the brain. A large number of these structures can play a major role in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s have brains filled with amyloid plaques, particularly in frontal and parietal lobes, the part of the brain that is involved in memory forming, organising and storing.
“According to studies, we know that amyloid plaques are the cause of Alzheimer’s. Therefore, detection of the substance in its earliest stage, before irreversible brain damage or mental decline, could help patients to prolong their mental ability.”
Tests to measure levels of the toxic protein beta-amyloid, either in the brain or in the spinal fluid, have increasingly played an important role in diagnosis of the disease.
“PET Scans are convenient and effective process used nowadays to detect biomarkers of Alzheimer’s, which could lead to earlier and more reliable diagnosis and help doctors develop more effective treatments for the disease.”
The FDG-PET brain technique is used to separate Alzheimer’s from other dementia diseases and enables doctors to evaluate the stages of dementia – early, middle or late.
The PET Scan, used in combination with a tracer called Pittsburgh Compound B, can detect brain changes to monitor the progression of Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment. These techniques can be used to detect types of dementia as early as the age 40.
“An overall healthy and active lifestyle, that includes physical, mental and social activities, seems to prevent or postpone the development of the disease which is most prevalent in people over the age of 80.”
“If you or your loved ones begin showing symptoms of dementia, see a doctor immediately in order to slow down the onset of the disease before it becomes too late,” concluded Dr. Yotin.