Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Known as the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s is a general term for loss of memory and other intellectual abilities that potentially interferes with daily life. Reports suggest that more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease. In most people, symptoms first appear after the age of 65 years. It is estimated that 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
There are different signs and symptoms associated with this syndrome and this may vary from one person to another. The most common and initial symptom is gradual deterioration in the ability to remember new pieces of information. This typically occurs when the first neurons in the brain regions involved in forming new memories malfunction and die.
Some of the other prominent symptoms include challenges in planning or solving problems, difficulty completing familiar tasks at home/office, misplacing objects, confusion with time or place, changes in mood or personality, problems with words in speaking or writing and more. Several factors such as age, gender, health and lifestyle, family history, traumatic brain injury, cardiovascular diseases and other social and cognitive engagement may increase the risk of developing this progressive brain disease.
Importance of Early Diagnosis
It is important to undergo Alzheimer’s screening tests at an early age. The major objective behind these tests is to identify this condition early so that it can be treated more effectively. Routine standard screening tests allows physicians to identify the correct symptoms thereby promoting early treatment without any further complications.
Even though there’s no specific test today that confirms the presence of this brain syndrome, physicians may conduct several cognitive tests and physical and neurologic examinations to establish the presence of this condition. Neurologists often recommend brain imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT), and positron emission tomography (PET) to confirm whether the patient has this condition. They may obtain a medical and family history (including psychiatric history and cognitive and behavioral changes) or may also ask a family member to provide valuable input.
Medicare offers coverage for medical and mental health conditions. This may include ongoing hospital care, doctor visits, physical exam and several other tests. Physicians providing treatment have to report accurate diagnostic and procedural codes on the claims to ensure due coverage.
In ICD-10, G30 is the code signifying this condition. It includes Alzheimer’s dementia senile and presenile forms; additional codes will have to be used to signify delirium if applicable (F05), dementia with behavioral disturbance (FO2.81), dementia without behavioral disturbance (FO2.80).
When a physician documents the condition as Alzheimer’s dementia, he has to report two codes listing Alzheimer’s disease first. For many dementia codes, code assignment depends on the presence of behavioral disturbances such as violence, aggressiveness, wandering off or combativeness.
For e.g. Patient has Alzheimer’s dementia without behavioral disturbance, G 30.9, FO2. 80
Neurogeneticists Use Immune System to Clear Alzheimer’s-associated Plaques – Finds Study
A new study found that the body’s immune system may be able to clear the brain of toxic plaque build-up (that is the typical characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease) thereby reversing memory loss and brain cell damage. The study was conducted by researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC).
The study published in the scientific journal Neuron (February 4, 2015 edition) determines a significant opportunity for effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease which is expected to affect 16 million Americans above the age of 65 years by the end of 2050. This disease is a growing public health crisis for which specialized treatment modality does not exist.
The study highlights the fact that rebalancing the immune response system to wipe away the toxic plaques from the brain may create safe and effective treatment for this disturbing mind condition. Patients suffering from this debilitating condition have large build-up of a sticky plaque (made of protein called beta-amyloid) that stimulates memory loss. As a result, the immune system becomes imbalanced and inefficient at clearing those plaques.
As part of the study, researchers used genetically modified mice to show that a blocking substance called “interleukin-10” activates an immune response to clear the brain of the beta-amyloid plaques to restore memory loss and brain cell damage. It was found that the disease–afflicted mice (in which the immune cells were activated) behaved more like a mice without the disease in various learning and memory tests. Future studies will test the effectiveness of drugs that target interleukin-10 in rats that the scientists have genetically modified to develop Alzheimer’s disease.