The National Institutes of Health and the Alzheimer's Association have added some much-needed updates to the guidelines used by physicians and scientists to diagnose and research the disease.
Previous criteria covered only one stage of Alzheimer's: the latest stage of dementia, a point where the disorder is so advanced that treatment is extremely difficult if not impossible.
Now, the guidelines include symptoms, tests and biomarkers for the early preclinical stage, mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's dementia.
"Bringing the diagnostic guidelines up to speed with [recent] advances is both a necessary and rewarding effort that will benefit patients and accelerate the pace of research," said National Institute on Aging Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D.
The guidelines have been created to be easily updated as researchers continue their extensive investigations into the causes and biomarkers of the disease as well as treatments and tests that may help patients.
Biomarkers — such as amyloid beta plaque and protein tangles in the brain — are becoming increasingly important as the medical community discovers their significance in early detection of Alzheimer's.