A brief review of the different types of tests to diagnosis dementia- Alzheimer’s dementia testing is for just one type of dementia. A comprehensive exam – complete physical, mental status, tests are to rule out other conditions and identify the specific type of dementia.
Any type of Alzheimer’s dementia testing in general, will vary depending on the symptoms. Diagnosing dementia is no easy matter since many variations of the condition exist, as well as many symptoms and testing methods.
Obtaining the medical history is normally the first step in diagnosing most forms of dementia. The information that a doctor gets from this provides answers to questions such as when the symptoms started and whether other family members have suffered from the condition. The doctor will also ask questions to gain an understanding of nutrition and diet and if any medication is being taken.
In most cases, a laboratory test is an Alzheimers test in the sense it rules out or confirms other medical conditions that may be the cause of the memory loss and other dementia-like behaviors. These tests tend to help identify thyroid issues, vitamin deficiencies and heavy metal poisoning and often include:
- Blood sugar or glucose to check for diabetes, which can affect memory and behavior.
- Checking liver and kidney functions since when these organs are not working properly, many health issues including dementia or dementia-like symptoms can occur.
- Blood count tests can help to confirm or rule out anemia.
MRIs, CT scans and other imaging tests on the brain help to identify abnormalities such as tumors, bleeding or lesions on the brain. This type of Alzheimers test can reveal if a stroke or series of strokes could be responsible for the dementia.
Another test for dementia, positron emission tomography (PET) uses a tracer to identify areas of the brain that are not functioning properly. This process involves injecting a substance, the tracer, into a vein and capturing a 3D image of how the brain is functioning by observing how it breaks down the tracer.
The Single-Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT) is another brain scan procedure used in testing for dementia. In similar fashion to PET, a low-dose radioactive solution is injected into the brain and the pattern of blood flow is observed to help the clinician arrive at a diagnosis. PET is very effective at helping to diagnose Alzheimer’s.
This type of Alzheimer’s dementia testing rules out conditions such as heart disease, strokes or other conditions that can lead to some forms of dementia. Blood and urine tests are also useful in helping to treat conditions leading to the dementia or conditions, which have similar symptoms. During a physical examination, doctors also check the patient’s blood pressure, lungs and heart as poor physical condition can lead to some symptoms of dementia.
Mental Status Tests
These tests check reasoning ability by seeing how well the patient can solve simple problems and assess memory and thinking to help arrive at a diagnosis. With this kind of Alzheimers test, the patient may have to complete some basic calculations, memorize a list of words or show that they know the date and time as the inability to do so are signs of dementia. Some of the assessment tools for this type of testing include:
- Mini-cog – Some exercises here may include asking the patient to draw a clock face showing a particular time. Other tests include giving the person three words and asking the patient to repeat the word. If the person is successful, it may be an indication that dementia is not the problem.
- Coin counting exercise – Here the patient needs to state how much money they have if they get coins of various denominations to add together.
- Recall exercises – Memory problems are a major part of any form of dementia so intensive memory-tests are important when trying to diagnose the problem.
- Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive (ADAS-Cog) – Taking about 30 minutes, this 11-part test is a good gauge for mild dementia and checks memory and language skills.
Professionals use these tests to check the patient’s coordination, balance and reflexes. These neurological tests help to identify any problems with the brain as the impulses governing these activities are in the brain. Neurological tests will also help identify other problems such as a stroke and Parkinson’s disease.
Many persons display behavior and memory problems as a direct result of mood disorders such as depression. By assessing the patient’s mood, doctors can help identify if these disorders as the cause of the dementia. Prescribing the appropriate medication depends on knowing what is wrong.
The fact is, no single Alzheimers test can identify the disease, but rather a rather a compilation of various assessments methods are necessary to arrive at a diagnosis. By eliminating some possible causes, the various dementia testing methods help to narrow down which type it is and help in devising a treatment plan. As with many other conditions, early diagnosis leads to better treatment outcomes.
Ruling out other conditions as a part of an overall Alzheimers test is necessary as the best course of treatment for dementia can only begin with the right diagnosis. Research, using dementia information, continues to search for other tests to diagnose as well as to prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.