Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but not in case when it comes to disease like Alzheimer’s.
Some people told they have Alzheimer’s may instead have a newly identified mimic of the disease and scientists say even though neither is yet curable, it’s critical to get better at telling different kinds of dementia apart.
There’s a difference
Too often, the word dementia is used interchangeably with Alzheimer’s when there are multiple types of brain degeneration that can harm people’s memory and thinking skills.
The newest disorder
It’s not clear how many people have this particular type, which an international team of scientists defined recently in the journal Brain. But there could be a sizeable number, said Dr. Peter Nelson of the University of Kentucky, the paper’s lead author.
The dementia was dubbed “LATE” an acronym chosen in part because the oldest seniors seem at greatest risk.
The most common
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and autopsies have long found its telltale signs in the brain: sticky plaque from an abnormal buildup of amyloid protein, and tangles of another protein named tau.
Only recently have scientists developed special, pricey scans that can measure that buildup in living brains.
Strokes, sometimes small “silent” ones, can trigger what’s called vascular dementia, something scientists at the National Institutes of Health think might be prevented with better blood pressure control.
Lewy body dementia, named for clumps of still another abnormal protein, can cause Alzheimer’s-like symptoms along with movement and other problems.
Frontotemporal dementia often triggers changes in personality and tends to strike at a younger age than Alzheimer’s, yet can still be misdiagnosed.