The Brain Scan: Does Alzheimers Show Up On An Mri
Brain scans or brain imaging are typically done with special agents. These special chemicals are injected into the bloodstream, travel to the brain and light up the beta amyloid plaques.
This type of imaging is called PET imaging or PET scan. Its very specific to Alzheimers disease plaque pathology because of the slightly radioactive agents that are injected. Once the agents reach the brain, the patient slides into a brain scanner where the amount of Alzheimers plaque you have in your brain can be seen and measured.
Tests designed to light up tau tangles, the other hallmark of Alzheimers disease, are in development.
PET scans are good but also not 100% accurate, With a memory test alone we might be 80% to 90% accurate. A PET scan will increase the accuracy level,
After that, many physicians, if they have access to the technology, will order a secondary biomarker test. And with the additional biomarker test the accuracy can improve further.
Alzheimers Tests Myths: Can You Find The Camel
This is a memory test where you are shown pictures of animals and youll be asked to name them. Theres a version of the test that shows you a picture of a camel, a rhinoceros, an elephant, among other images.
A camel may look like a horse with a hump. So if someone answers horse that would indicate a potential problem. Its supposed to be a very easy test for someone who is not demented. But for those who are demented, the information of the images may be difficult to take in and recall the correct animals name.
The pictures of animals test is only 1/20th of the full Alzheimers dementia test. So, it wont tell you much.
Now, if you are referring to the find the camel in the picture puzzle claiming to reduce the risk of dementia, that is absolutely false.
Lewy Body Dementia: Symptoms Can Be Mistaken For Other Disorders
Diagnosing Lewy body dementia is especially complicated because its symptoms are similar to those of Alzheimers, Parkinsons disease, or a psychiatric illness.
As a way to distinguish Lewy body dementia from other brain disorders, researchers are studying a number of methods, including the use of lumbar puncture to measure proteins in cerebrospinal fluid.
Cognitive decline is one of the essential criteria for a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia. In addition, two or more of the following are required:
- Fluctuating, unpredictable alertness and ability to think
- Repeated visual hallucinations
- Parkinsonian symptoms, such as physical rigidity
- REM sleep behavior disorder, in which patients act out their dreams while asleep
Physicians may also look for the presence of certain biomarkers and conduct other tests to assess brain function. These include:
- Tests that assess blood vessels in the heart to measure nerve function
- Sleep studies that evaluate brain waves
The presence of the following symptoms may also indicate Lewy body dementia:
- Problems with autonomic nervous system function, as indicated by unstable blood pressure and heart rate, poor regulation of body temperature, and sweating
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Loss of the sense of smell
To rule out other conditions with symptoms resembling those of Lewy body dementia, such as Parkinsons disease, strokes, and tumors, doctors might conduct neurological and physical exams that assess:
- Sense of touch
Is It Important To Diagnose Dementia What Is Involved What Can Doctors Do
In this article, we look at the tough issues relating to diagnosis. It may take time, and some tests may be involved. But for most people, getting a clear diagnosis is a vital first step towards getting good support for the years ahead.
Facing a dementia diagnosis
It is hard to face going through any diagnosis process or to try to coax a loved one to do so. And when it comes to dementia, it is especially hard. There is still a lot of stigmas associated with dementia. Embarrassment and fear make people avoid talking about the topic, let alone taking any action on it.
Many people will have lived with a strange sense of something being wrong for some time months or even years. They know they are having difficulties, but the reason for them is unclear. Family members and friends may suspect there is something wrong too, but feel unsure whether it is worth pushing for further investigations.
Over recent years, there is a growing consensus that it is a basic right for people living with dementia to be given clear information about the illness they are living with. This is accepted for any other illness so why not dementia? So yes, it is important to diagnose dementia.
In some situations, the person with suspected dementia may have a clearly stated wish not to know the diagnosis this is also their right and needs to be respected.
Have the tests and scans
Consider the treatment options
Difficulty Completing Normal Tasks
A subtle shift in the ability to complete normal tasks may indicate that someone has early dementia. This usually starts with difficulty doing more complex tasks like balancing a checkbook or playing games that have a lot of rules.
Along with the struggle to complete familiar tasks, they may struggle to learn how to do new things or follow new routines.
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A Guide To Doctors And Dementia Aaa
A dementia diagnosis is life changing, both for the individual with the disease and their loved ones. If you sense that you or a family member may be showing signs of dementia, you likely have dozens of questions. But who should you call first when seeking a diagnosis? Dementia is one of those rare diseases that doesnt fall under one medical specialty, and for that reason, it can be confusing to determine initial steps. Each specialist can offer something different, but which one will best meet your needs? The truth is, it will differ from person to person. Here is a list of specialists you may encounter on your dementia journey to help you better understand the many ways in which they can assist. You may only need to see one of these care providers but consider that many of these resources may be helpful to you and your loved one as you navigate life with dementia.
Primary Care Physician
Neurologists diagnose and treat problems related to the brain and nervous system. Not only do they receive the same training as a primary care physician, but they also receive at least three additional years of specialized training in neurology and the pathology of the brain, including the study of all forms of dementia. As such, they are an excellent resource on;dementia in its many forms. However, just as you would with your PCP, it is advisable to first ask if they regularly treat patients with dementia to ensure you will receive a well-informed and expert opinion.
Questions To Ask A Neurologist About Dementia
- What tests will you be performing, what do they involve and what will they tell you about my loved ones condition?
- How soon can you share the results of these tests?
- How did you arrive at your diagnosis of dementia, and is there any possibility these symptoms could be triggered by a reversible cause?
- What type and stage of dementia is this, and how quickly does it usually progress?
- What treatment options are available for my loved ones Alzheimers disease or other form of dementia? Are there any clinical trials available?
- Which treatment option do you believe best fit our situation? Are there non-drug approaches that could be helpful?
- How will you determine if a treatment is effective, and how soon will you be able to evaluate the treatments effectiveness?
- What side effects are possible with this treatment, and how can we monitor those potential effects at home?
- When should we call you about potential treatment side effects or an apparent worsening of dementia symptoms?
- Is one treatment option more likely than another to interfere with medications for my loved ones other conditions?
- What are the concerns with stopping one treatment and beginning another?
- At what stage of the disease would you consider it appropriate to stop using the drug?
- Is it safe for my loved one to continue to live at home/work/perform everyday activities?
- What resources can help us manage this condition?
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Developing A Treatment Plan
Psychologists may work with individuals with dementia and their families independently through a private practice or as part of a health care team. Psychologists will work with the individual and family to develop strategies to improve quality of life and manage emotions related to the dementia diagnosis.
In working with a psychologist, an individual with dementia and those who provide care for them may discuss what is already being done well to manage the dementia and which behaviors may be improved. The psychologist may ask the individual or caregiver to do homework like practicing memory tools. Memory tools can help individuals become more organized to better manage their symptoms of memory loss. These tools might include:
- Using an alarm as a reminder to take medicine.
- Using a calendar, to-do list and journal combo as a memory substitute.
- Establishing routines to identify, plan and carry out pleasant activities that are within the capacity of the care recipient.
Stage : Mild Cognitive Impairment
Clear cognitive problems begin to manifest in stage 3. A few signs of stage 3 dementia include:
- Getting lost easily
- Noticeably poor performance at work
- Forgetting the names of family members and close friends
- Difficulty retaining information read in a book or passage
- Losing or misplacing important objects
- Difficulty concentrating
Patients often start to experience mild to moderate anxiety as these symptoms increasingly interfere with day to day life. Patients who may be in this stage of dementia are encouraged to have a clinical interview with a clinician for proper diagnosis.
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At What Age Can You Test Someone For The Signs Of Dementia
There is no one particular age that someone must meet before they can be assessed for signs of dementia, although dementia is more common in people over 65. Early-onset dementia can begin in people who are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Diagnosing dementia in its early stages is important as early treatment can slow the progression of symptoms and help to maintain mental functions.
How Is It Treated
There are medicines you can take for dementia. They cannot cure it, but they can slow it down for a while and make it easier to live with.
As dementia gets worse, a person may get depressed or angry and upset. An active social life, counseling, and sometimes medicine may help with changing emotions.
If a stroke caused the dementia, there are things you can do to reduce the chance of another stroke. Make healthy lifestyle changes including eating healthy, being active, staying at a healthy weight, and not smoking. Manage other health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
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What Doctors Need To Do To Diagnose Dementia
Now that we reviewed the five key features of dementia, lets talk about how I or another doctor might go about checking for these.
Basically, for each feature, the doctor needs to evaluate, and document what she finds.
1. Difficulty with mental functions. To evaluate this, its best to combine an office-based cognitive test with documentation of real-world problems, as reported by the patient and by knowledgeable observers
For cognitive testing, I generally use;the Mini-Cog, or the MOCA. The MOCA provides more information but it takes more time, and many seniors are either unwilling or unable to go through the whole test.
Completing office-based tests is important because its a standardized way to document cognitive abilities. But the results dont tell the doctor much about whats going on in the persons actual life.
So I always ask patients to tell me if theyve noticed any trouble with memory or thinking. I also try to get information from family members about any of the eight behaviors that are common in Alzheimers. Lastly, I make note of whether there seem to be any problems managing activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living .
Driving and managing finances require a lot of mental coordination, so as dementia develops, these are often the life tasks that people struggle with first.
Checking for many of these causes of cognitive impairment requires laboratory testing, and sometimes additional evaluation.
Diagnosing Vascular Dementia: A Judgment Call
There is currently no definitive test for vascular dementia and no way to diagnose it conclusively except autopsy. Doctors make a judgment call on the basis of;information the patient provides, a medical history of stroke or other cardiovascular disorders, and a battery of tests.
To gauge the health of the heart and blood vessels, doctors measure:
- Blood pressure
To evaluate the overall health of the neurological system, doctors check:
- Muscle tone and strength, comparing one side of the body to the other
- Ability to get up from a chair and walk across the room
- Sense of touch and sight
To look for visible abnormalities in the brain, doctors might recommend one of the following imaging procedures:
- Computerized tomography scan;By creating cross-sectional X-ray images of the brain, a CT scan reveals the brains structure, signs of atrophy, and evidence of strokes, mini-strokes, blood vessel changes, or tumors.
- Magnetic resonance imaging ;Through a combination of radio waves and a strong magnetic field, an MRI can deliver even more accurate images of the brain than a CT scan.
To look for any potential blockage in the carotid artery, which supplies blood to the brain, doctors might use:
- Carotid ultrasound;High-frequency sound waves are used look for structural problems or narrowing of the artery due to plaque deposits.
- Doppler ultrasound;The test reveals the movement of blood through the arteries as well as structural features.
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Early Symptoms Of Dementia
Dementia is a collection of symptoms that can occur due to a variety of possible diseases. Dementia symptoms include impairments in thought, communication, and memory.
If you or your loved one is experiencing memory problems, dont immediately conclude that its dementia. A person needs to have at least two types of impairment that significantly interfere with everyday life to receive a dementia diagnosis.
In addition to difficulty remembering, the person may also experience impairments in:
Diagnosis Is Difficult In The Earliest Stages
This dementia can be particularly difficult to diagnose in its early stages, as its symptoms resemble those of other forms of dementia.
Whats more, one particular type of frontotemporal disorder resembles depression or a stroke, especially when there are speech or movement problems.
As with other forms of dementia, researchers are working on new diagnostic methods involving biomarkers, brain imaging, and neuropsychological testing.
To assess reasoning and memory skills in enough detail to diagnose frontotemporal disorders, a physician may conduct a long;neuropsychological test.
PET and other scans can also reveal more about whats going on in the brain, revealing abnormalities in the frontal or temporal lobe.
Questions Your Doctor May Ask
- What are your symptoms?
- Do you have them all the time or do they come and go?
- What makes them better?
- Are they getting worse or staying the same?
- Have you had to stop doing things you used to do?
- Does anyone in your family have a genetic form of dementia, Huntingtons, or Parkinsons?
- What other conditions do you have?
- What medications do you take?
- Have you been under any unusual stress lately? Have you had any major life changes?
So Which One Should You See
Making an appointment with either a psychiatrist or neurologist would ultimately lead to a correct diagnosis, even if they end up referring you to the other specialty for a more specific evaluation.
If a dementia patient is hallucinating or becoming aggressive, for example, you may want to discuss the problem with a psychiatrist who specializes in geriatrics; they may be more comfortable prescribing antipsychotic medications, which are typically used to treat these symptoms. A neurologist may be a better option if other neurological symptoms beyond changes in memory, mood and behavior emerge . But the bottom line is that either will be able to provide a preliminary diagnosis of dementia, and guide you in the best direction.
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Struggling To Adapt To Change
For someone in the early stages of dementia, the experience can cause fear. Suddenly, they cant remember people they know or follow what others are saying. They cant remember why they went to the store, and they get lost on the way home.
Because of this, they might crave routine and be afraid to try new experiences. Difficulty adapting to change is also a typical symptom of early dementia.
Stage : Moderate Dementia
Patients in stage 5 need some assistance in order to carry out their daily lives. The main sign for stage 5 dementia is the inability to remember major details such as the name of a close family member or a home address. Patients may become disoriented about the time and place, have trouble making decisions, and forget basic information about themselves, such as a telephone number or address.
While moderate dementia can interfere with basic functioning, patients at this stage do not need assistance with basic functions such as using the bathroom or eating. Patients also still have the ability to remember their own names and generally the names of spouses and children.
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