Information provided by the Alzheimer’s Association indicates that by 2025, more than 100,000 Louisiana residents aged 65 or older may find themselves living with Alzheimer’s disease. The debilitating, dementia-producing disorder ranks as the sixth most common cause of death in the Bayou State.

Through an awareness of these alarming statistics, families may have more power to hold physicians responsible when they negligently misdiagnose patients. Because dementia generally progresses through different types of symptoms and has many causes, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common, an individual’s proper care and treatment requires an early diagnosis.

Misdiagnosis differs between men and women

A study published in Neurological, a peer-reviewed publication, noted researchers’ findings regarding how doctors diagnose men and women for dementia. As reported by USA Today, physicians may misdiagnose women as free of dementia while incorrectly diagnosing men as having it.

Women perform better on some of the tests given to determine a patient’s early onset of mild cognitive impairment. The study found that a doctor may misdiagnose a woman as not showing the early signs of dementia because women typically perform better on verbal memory-recognition tests. By the time a physician accurately diagnoses a female patient with dementia, the condition may have already progressed.

Although men typically score higher on visual-spatial tests, they have a greater tendency to not perform as well as women on the verbal-memory evaluations. As a result of one or more of the gender-specific differences, a doctor may prescribe a male patient unnecessary medication after a misdiagnosis of mild cognitive impairment.

A misdiagnosis may lead to harmful medications or a lack of treatment

Many types of serious brain injuries and conditions may display the same symptoms that patients with Alzheimer’s disease exhibit, such as confusion, poor memory, and vision or hearing problems. Patients misdiagnosed with brain-related issues may not receive the proper treatment for the actual condition causing the problem, and unneeded prescription drugs could alter an individual’s cognition. A patient’s outcome may also suffer a severely negative effect of delayed treatment when the early symptoms of dementia go unrecognized.