Alzheimer’s Disease: How It’s Diagnosed

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 18 March 2021

Alzheimer’s syndrome is not a regular part of the ageing process. It’s important to see a specialist whether you or a loved one believes you or a loved one is displaying signs of the disorder. Memory failure, behavioural alterations, and expression and decision-making difficulties are also potential symptoms that should be investigated.

However, Alzheimer’s disease shares much of the same symptoms as other chronic illnesses. Depression, inadequate sleep, and taking medications that don’t work well together are one of them. A specialist will determine if the signs are caused by Alzheimer’s disease or anything else that is easier to treat.

A prompt and accurate diagnosis helps you or a loved one to make preparations for the future. You may also start taking certain medications that enable people with Alzheimer’s disease to manage some of their effects for a while. In almost half of the patients who take these medications, they prevent symptoms from getting worse for 6 to 12 months on average.

 

Getting a Diagnosis

Alzheimer’s syndrome cannot be definitively diagnosed until after death, where doctors will study the brain under a microscope. However, scans should be used to rule out any disorders that can trigger certain symptoms.

When you or a loved one is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, here’s what to expect.

Health History

Your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask you questions about your medical history and current condition. They’ll like to know the following:

 

Mini-Mental State Exam

A short test that assesses your problem-solving skills, attention span, counting skills and memory.

These assessments will inform the doctor whether you have trouble with the sections of the brain that regulate learning, memory, thinking, and planning.

 

CT Scan

CT (computed tomography) is a procedure that involves a computer taking X-rays of the body from a variety of viewpoints in a limited amount of time. The scans are converted into a sequence of images that resemble “slices" across the body by a computer. CT scans will reveal brain changes that are common in Alzheimer’s disease’s later stages.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Using a large magnet, radio waves, and a monitor, an MRI creates very detailed images of the body. It may aid doctors in assessing if symptoms that resemble Alzheimer’s are the result of a tumour or a stroke. It can also help in demonstrating the disease-related changes in the brain.

 

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

To map areas of your brain, PET uses radioactive tracers like flortaucipir (Tauvid). It may aid in the detection of protein plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Neuropsychological Testing

This study looks at the connection between the brain and behaviour. It aids in the diagnosis and treatment of cognitive, emotional, and behavioural disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

These assessments are performed by doctors in conjunction with a comprehensive consultation. Other assessments to assess memory, language, planning and reasoning abilities, and the capacity to alter behaviour can be performed.

Neuropsychological tests will also enable the doctor and family to appreciate how a disease affects your daily life.

Sources

Referenced on 2.3.2021:

  1. 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. (n.d.).
    alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs
  2. Alzheimer’s diagnosis. (n.d.).
    alzinfo.org/articles/diagnosis/
  3. Alzheimer’s disease. (2018).
    cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/alzheimers.htm
  4. APOE gene. (2018).
    ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/APOE#
  5. Diagnosis. (n.d.).
    alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/diagnosis
  6. Hebert LE, et al. (2013). Alzheimer disease in the United States (2010–2050) estimated using the 2010 census. DOI:
    10.1212/WNL.0b013e31828726f5
  7. How is Alzheimer’s disease treated? (2018).
    nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-medications-fact-sheet
  8. La Fata G, et al. (2014). Effects of vitamin E on cognitive performance during ageing and in Alzheimer’s disease. DOI:
    10.3390/nu6125453
  9. Medical tests. (n.d.).
    alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/diagnosis/medical_tests
  10. Treatments. (n.d.).
    alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/treatments
  11. Types of dementia. (2017).
    nia.nih.gov/health/types-dementia
  12. What is Alzheimer’s? (n.d.).
    alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers
  13. Younger/early onset. (n.d.).
    alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers/younger-early-onset
  14. The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation.
  15. Society for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.
  16. https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/making-diagnosis-tests

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