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Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s 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 Alzheimer’s disease.
- CT scan and MRI —Take detailed pictures of your brain to identify any abnormalities
- PET scan and 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 Alzheimer's, such as beta amyloid and tau proteins.
Blood and Urine Tests
- Probable Alzheimer’s disease—This indicates that other dementia-related disorders have likely been ruled out. The symptoms are most likely due to Alzheimer’s disease. At least two areas of cognition are affected. One area is a worsening of memory.
- Possible Alzheimer’s disease—The dementia is possibly caused by Alzheimer’s disease. There may be other disorders that are causing of the dementia.
- Definite Alzheimer’s 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.
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Bombois S, Duhamel A, Salleron J, 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, Broich K, 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