The Macroeconomic impact of dementia is large, due to the high cost of treating patients and the rising numbers in our aging population.
Neurologists accept that brain changes begin many years before symptoms occur and that treatment is likely to be most successful if begun in early stages.
Until recently, there were no effective treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease. There are now three drugs, which slightly delay the progression, have side effects and are costly. These are donanemab by Eli Lilly and Leqembi, an F.D.A.-approved Alzheimer’s drug from the company Eisai. A third drug, Aduhelm, was also approved by the F.D.A., but is rarely used because of concerns about its effectiveness and its high price. Brain swelling was reported in its clinical trial and deaths were reported in patients taking Aduhelm after it was approved.
Now that there are drugs that may slow the progression of AD, it makes sense to screen the population to see who may benefit. Current screening is difficult and expensive.
A new device has just been developed which can diagnose AD and Parkinson’s disease using electroencephalography (EEG) performed by earplugs worn during sleep. Besides measuring brain waves, this amazing device also allows for the measurement of other sleep-related variables. The device includes an oximeter to measure blood oxygen levels, a thermometer for body temperature, and a microphone to evaluate heart and respiratory rates.
These synergistic technologies – earplug EEG to screen for early brain changes and drugs to slow the changes – may finally reduce the incidence of crippling dementia.
At the same time, studies show that lifestyle can dramatically reduce the risk of dementia.