Alzheimer’s disease is more likely to be wrongly diagnosed in men, which is why more women appear to develop the condition, research has found.
Researchers examined the autopsy and clinical records of 1,606 people who had Alzheimer’s disease confirmed after death.
The study found that men were more likely to have experienced atypical symptoms such as difficulty with speech and movement.
The area of the brain involved in memory was also more likely to be spared in men compared to women.
Furthermore, the age of onset for Alzheimer’s disease also differed between the sexes, with a spike in cases in men in their 60s, compared with more female cases starting in their 70s and beyond.
The study was reported at Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2016 in Toronto.
A second study reported at AAIC 2016 found inconsistencies between the clinical diagnoses a person receives in life and the pathological changes observed in the brain at autopsy.
Looking at the clinical and autopsy records from 1,073 people from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center database, researchers reported a correct diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease had been made 78% of the time.
In almost 11% of cases there were Alzheimer’s disease changes in the brain that had not been correctly diagnosed in life.
Conversely, almost 11% were “false positives”, meaning they received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in life but this was not backed-up by Alzheimer’s brain pathology at autopsy.
Of the false positives, 30% had brain changes consistent with vascular dementia, 12% with Lewy body dementia, 9% with frontotemporal dementia and 15% with mixed dementia.
Dr Clare Walton, research manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “An accurate and timely diagnosis of dementia is essential to enable people to live well for as long as possible.
“If one in five people are living with a wrong diagnosis, they might not have access to treatments that can provide welcome relief from some of their symptoms.
“Alzheimer’s was first identified in a woman in the early 1900s but these results suggest there are important differences in how the disease affects men and women.
“More research is needed to understand how much mis-diagnosis in men contributes to the observation that nearly two thirds of people living with dementia in the UK are women.”