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Diagnosis of Alzheimers Disease
Tests to Assess Dementia
Neurological exam—examines the nervous system for evidence of other neurological disorders. This may include mental status testing of:
- Sense of time and place
- Problem-solving abilities
- Attention span
- Language skills
- Visual-spatial perception
- Learning capacity
- Decision-making skills
- Psychological evaluation—looks for depression or other emotional illnesses that may be the first sign of Alzheimers disease
- CT scan and MRI scan—take detailed pictures of your brain to identify any abnormalities
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans
- Lumbar puncture—tests the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord to look for infections that can cause dementia, or show markers of Alzheimers, such as beta amyloid and tau proteins
Blood and Urine Tests
- Probable Alzheimers disease—This indicates that other dementia-related disorders have likely been ruled out. The symptoms are most likely due to Alzheimers disease. At least two areas of cognition are affected. One area is a worsening of memory.
- Possible Alzheimers disease—The dementia is possibly caused by Alzheimers disease. There may be other disorders that are causing the dementia.
- Definite Alzheimers disease—This diagnosis can only be made at the time of death. It is done through an autopsy when the brain tissue can be examined. This is the only way to diagnose the disease with complete certainty.
Alzheimers disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated August 19, 2013. Accessed September 5, 2013.
Alzheimer's disease medications fact sheet. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/medicationsfs.htm. Updated July 2010. Accessed September 5, 2013.
Bombois S, Duhamel A, et al. A new decision tree combining Abeta 1-42 and p-Tau levels in Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Curr Alzheimer Res. 2013;10(4):357-64.
Frisoni GB, Bocchetta M, et al. Imaging markers for Alzheimer disease: Which vs how. Neurology. 2013;81(5):487-500.
Ghidoni R, Benussi L, et al. Cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers in Alzheimer’s disease: the present and the future. Neurodegen Dis. 2011;8:413-420.
Hampel H, Frank R, et al. Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease: academic, industry and regulatory perspectives. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2010;9(7):560-574.
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What is Alzheimer's? Alzheimer’s Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers%5Fdisease%5Fwhat%5Fis%5Falzheimers.asp. Accessed September 5, 2013.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013
- Update Date: 09/30/2013