(WDAM) - The criteria defining Alzheimer's disease is changing. The National Institute of Aging, has released new guidelines for diagnosing the disease, which are more in line with current research.
For the first time in more than a quarter century, Alzheimer's experts are modifying the guidelines for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.
Once considered a disease with only one stage, dementia, the Alzheimer's Association and The National Institute on Aging are now recognizing it as a three stage disorder.
The initial stage, is being called pre-clinical Alzheimer's disease. Individuals in this phase have no outward symptoms, but experience abnormal changes in the brain. Brain imaging and other testing to detect these changes are available in research settings, but not yet in doctor's offices.
The mid-phase is being referred to as mild cognitive impairment, or mci.
People who suffer from mci have mild changes in thinking and memory, but can still function in a fairly normal manner. These individuals can be diagnosed in a doctor's office after taking cognitive tests.
The third stage is dementia. In this stage, memory, thinking and behavioral symptoms impair a person's ability to function in daily life.
Bill Lies, with The Alzheimer's Association said recognizing the disease early on offers new hope
"That's going to allow us to find people earlier in the disease and develop drugs that actually will treat people earlier and prevent the dementia from happening."