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Self-test could reveal Alzheimer's

16 January 2014 09:20

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Holiday ahoy! Having Alzheimer's need not be a barrier to getting travel insurance and enjoying your holiday

Quick and simple self-testing could be the first step towards helping people answer the question: "Have I got Alzheimer's?"

Researchers say the 15-minute procedure can indicate initial signs of mental decline that might be the first suggestion of the condition.

It could also help put them on their GP's radar so medical professionals could provide early diagnosis and medication.

US scientists asked more than 1,000 people aged at least 50 to take the Sage test.

They discovered more than a quarter (28%) had cognitive impairment, a mild erosion of mental capacity.

The findings were comparable to those from detailed diagnostic tests undertaken by specialists.

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Ohio State University's Dr Douglas Scharre, who helped create the test, said: "If we catch this cognitive change really early, then we can start potential treatments much earlier than without having this test."

The procedure can be taken at home by patients and the findings shared with doctors to help them identify early symptoms of dementia.

The Sage trial cannot diagnose patients' difficulties.

But it can provide physicians with a "baseline" of mental function so incremental changes can be monitored over time.

Dr Scharre, director of the university's Division of Cognitive Neurology, said: "We can give them the test periodically and, the moment we notice any changes in their cognitive abilities, we can intervene much more rapidly."

Previous studies found the test can recognise 80% of people with mild thinking and memory issues.

Volunteers were tested on mental orientation, language, reasoning, spatial awareness, problem solving and recall.

Dr Simon Ridley, from the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, called for further studies concerning the Sage test.

Dr Ridley added: "The test is not designed to diagnose dementia, and people who are worried about their memory should seek advice from a doctor rather than attempting self-diagnosis."