Alzheimer’s disease, widely known as the most prevalent type of dementia, is marked by distressing and debilitating symptoms like forgetfulness, persistent memory loss, confusion, and, ultimately, a loss of the ability to independently manage daily activities.
Additionally, a recent study has highlighted a lesser-known early stage of dementia symptoms known as posterior cortical atrophy, or PCA.
PCA presents a complex array of visuospatial symptoms that often emerge as initial indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at UC San Francisco recently completed the first extensive study on PCA, and now, they report that up to 10% of Alzheimer’s cases exhibit PCA symptoms.
This research analyzed data from more than 1,000 patients across 36 locations in 16 nations. In essence, the study suggests a strong link between posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) and Alzheimer’s disease.
An overwhelming 94% of those with PCA showed signs of Alzheimer’s, while the remaining 6% were affected by other disorders like frontotemporal lobar degeneration and Lewy body disease. In contrast, other research indicates that around 70% of individuals with memory loss are found to have Alzheimer’s pathology.
Unlike those with memory issues, individuals with PCA face challenges in estimating distances, differentiating between objects in motion and those at rest, and performing tasks like writing or retrieving a dropped item.
But, according to Marianne Chapleau from the UCSF Department of Neurology, Memory and Aging Center, most PCA patients can still pass a standard eye test despite their visual challenges.
Initially, a majority of PCA patients showed normal cognitive abilities. However, by their first diagnostic appointment– averaging 3.8 years after the onset of symptoms– they often exhibited mild or moderate dementia. This was evident in various areas, including executive function, memory, behavior, speech, and language.
When diagnosed, 61% of the patients showed signs of “constructional dyspraxia,” which means they couldn’t replicate or create simple diagrams or figures.