Why Would Anyone Want An Early Alzheimers Diagnosis
The SAGE test is useful because it helps you understand if your concerns are something to be worried about.
If the results seem to indicate that there could be a problem, you might think theres no point in talking with the doctor because theres no cure for dementia.
The most important is that a treatable condition could be the cause of cognitive impairment. Finding out sooner means getting treatment ASAP to eliminate the cognitive symptoms.
If the cognitive impairment is caused by Alzheimers or dementia, a major benefit is that starting treatment early is far more effective in managing symptoms and delaying progression of the disease.
Future Of Alzheimers Blood Tests
When blood tests become mainstream, they will significantly impact the way doctors diagnose and treat the disease. Medicine and technology have progressed so that it is estimated in the near future to be an easily accessible option.
Beyond the Preclivity AD, Quest AD-Detect, AlzoSure and Simoa, there are multiple other types of blood tests in development. Some are looking at protective fats in the blood. Research shows that an increase in fatty amide levels indicates more beta amyloid in the brain. Beta amyloid plaques have been found in the brains of people with Alzheimers. Healthy brains eliminate beta-amyloids before they turn to plaque.
Other blood tests will measure proteins such as tau proteins and the neurofilament light chain protein. Researchers have found that neuron death, characteristic in people with Alzheimers, may be detected by the corresponding increase of these proteins in the blood.
It is also possible that the probable link between insulin resistance, diabetes and Alzheimers means blood tests could show the disease in someone well before symptoms occur. Another protein called IRS-1 is commonly associated with diabetes but has also been linked to Alzheimers. Studies have shown that someone with Alzheimers has more IRS-1 than even someone with diabetes.
Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease
There are a variety of ways doctors can test cognitive function in a person with dementia.
Often, a patient or a family member has picked up on clues that there is a problem with cognition.
However, are there ways to formally and objectively assess this?
The answer is, yes there are a host of cognitive tests for dementia that range from simple bedside tests that take a few minutes to perform to in-depth neuropsychiatric testing that can take a few hours.
While imaging of the brain can provide insights into brain structure and some types of brain imaging can even show metabolic and blood flow function, cognitive tests directly observe performance in certain domains and remain essential in the diagnosis of dementia.
In this article, we will describe what these tests are and how they affect the diagnosis and testing for dementia.
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Blood Test For Alzheimers Highly Accurate In Large International Study
When combined with genetic risk factors, test up to 93% accurate at identifying people at risk of Alzheimer’s dementia
Neurologist Randall J. Bateman, MD, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology, inspects a mass spectrometry machine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Using mass spectrometry, Bateman and colleagues have developed a blood test that is up to 93% accurate at identifying people at risk of Alzheimer’s dementia.
A blood test developed at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has proven highly accurate in detecting early signs of Alzheimers disease in a study involving nearly 500 patients from across three continents, providing further evidence that the test should be considered for routine screening and diagnosis.
The study is available in the journal Neurology.
Our study shows that the blood test provides a robust measure for detecting amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimers disease, even among patients not yet experiencing cognitive declines, said senior author Randall J. Bateman, MD, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology.
Developed by Bateman and colleagues, the blood test assesses whether amyloid plaques have begun accumulating in the brain based on the ratio of the levels of the amyloid beta proteins A42 and A40 in the blood.
What Happens If A Doctor Thinks It’s Alzheimer’s Disease
If a primary care doctor suspects Alzheimers, he or she may refer the patient to a specialist who can provide a detailed diagnosis or further assessment. Specialists include:
- Geriatricians, who manage health care in older adults and know how the body changes as it ages and whether symptoms indicate a serious problem.
- Geriatric psychiatrists, who specialize in the mental and emotional problems of older adults and can assess memory and thinking problems.
- Neurologists, who specialize in abnormalities of the brain and central nervous system and can conduct and review brain scans.
- Neuropsychologists, who can conduct tests of memory and thinking.
Memory clinics and centers, including Alzheimers Disease Research Centers, offer teams of specialists who work together to diagnose the problem. In addition, these specialty clinics or centers often have access to the equipment needed for brain scans and other advanced diagnostic tests.
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If You Are Diagnosed With Dementia
Obtaining an early and accurate diagnosis can improve the quality of life for people with dementia.
Talk to your doctor about treatment and ongoing assessment.
Support and information is available through the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
Thanks to Associate Professor David Ames for reviewing this material.
How Accurate And Reliable Are The Results
Like any test, SAGE is not perfect. Scharre points out that individuals have a wide variety of cognitive talents and this needs to be taken into account. There will be individuals who score well but have a decline from their previous abilities. Repeat testing over time will find those that are progressing, he explains.
Some individuals will not score as well, but that may represent their baseline talents, and their score would not suggest any specific brain condition,” he adds. This is why its important to have the test interpreted in light of ones medical history by a healthcare provider.
Its important to note that other factors could be affecting your memory and thinking on any given day.
Perhaps you dont have a memory impairment but are quite depressed, ill, or sleep deprived. explains Jessica Z. K. Caldwell, PhD, director of neuropsychology training and staff neuropsychologist at Cleveland Clinics Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Nevada. If you have concerns about your memory but are also experiencing these symptoms, Dr. Caldwell suggests you see your doctor.
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Detecting Alzheimers Gets Easier With A Simple Blood Test
New assays could reduce the need for costlier, more invasive brain scans and spinal fluid measures
When a patient complains of forgetfulness, a neurologist might not know immediately whether it results from normal aging, reduced blood flow to the brainor, more ominously, Alzheimers disease. For much of the past century, a definitive Alzheimers diagnosis could only be made during an autopsy. Brain imaging and spinal fluid tests now make it possible to spot the disease in patients even before the initial symptoms appear. But these invasive tests are expensive and generally limited to research settings that are not part of routine care for the millions of people suffering from the most common neurodegenerative disorder.
An era in which an Alzheimers diagnosis can begin in a doctors office is now arriving. Advances in technologies to detect early signs of disease from a blood sample are helping doctors to identify the memory-robbing disorder more accurately and to screen participants more quickly for trials of potential treatments for the more than five million people in the U.S. afflicted with Alzheimers.
The development of a blood-based test for Alzheimers disease is just phenomenal, says Michelle Mielke, a neuroscientist and epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic. The field has been thinking about this for a very long time. Its really been in the last couple of years that the possibility has come to fruition.
Purpose Of Alzheimers Test
With the Alzheimers disease, earlier the treatment the earlier the condition can be controlled before it gets severe. Studies show that many people usually delay for about 3-4 years on the onset of the Alzheimers symptoms before visiting a doctor.
Despite the Alzheimers disease being among the weightiest health challenges in the 21st century and the intense research done, there is no sure cure for Alzheimers disease. Any early test can help catch and also treat early Alzheimer symptoms.
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Memory Tests Doctors Use For Dementia
The idea that your memory might be slipping is a scary one indeed. Its not always accurate, however, and there are memory tests that doctors can use to test whether its actually happening or not.
A certain amount of forgetfulness is normal as we grow older. We may forget someones name or fail to pay a bill. Such memory lapses are mild and usually a normal part of aging. We have all had instances of losing track of our keys and not remembering the name of the movie we saw last month.
For me, Ive always been great with peoples faces, but their names, or even worse dates forget about it .
There are, however, more serious signs that our short-term memory is failing and that we need to discuss the situation with a doctor. How do we tell the difference?
The Brief Alzheimer’s Screening Test
This short screening asks the test taker to repeat three words immediately after hearing them. Next, two tasks that distract from those three words are performed: a short version of the verbal fluency test where the person is asked to name as many animals as they can in 30 seconds and spelling “WORLD” backward. Finally, the person is asked to remember and recite the three words from the beginning of the screening process.
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When Is Memory Loss A Problem
Do you keep asking the same questions over and over? Are you having difficulty following easy, simple instructions, such as how to put together a recipe? Do you keep becoming more and more mixed up over people and places.
Alzheimers Disease, as we all know, can lead to memory loss, but not all memory loss is linked to Alzheimers and related dementias. And, in some cases, it can be treated once the cause has been found.
How To Diagnose Alzheimers Vs Dementia
Alzheimers is a progressive and fatal brain disorder. Dementia is not a specific disease, but an umbrella term that defines a syndrome and used to refer to a specific group of symptoms related to a decline in mental ability. Alzheimers is one of the most common causes of dementia. Both Alzheimers and dementia are diagnosed using a variety of different assessments and tests, including a physical exam, lab tests, cognitive and neuropsychological tests, and an analysis of changes in behavior.
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Stage : Mild Dementia
At this stage, individuals may start to become socially withdrawn and show changes in personality and mood. Denial of symptoms as a defense mechanism is commonly seen in stage 4. Behaviors to look for include:
- Difficulty remembering things about one’s personal history
- Difficulty recognizing faces and people
In stage 4 dementia, individuals have no trouble recognizing familiar faces or traveling to familiar locations. However, patients in this stage will often avoid challenging situations in order to hide symptoms or prevent stress or anxiety.
Can Dementia Suddenly Get Worse
The progression of dementia depends on the underlying disease. Some diseases have a rapid progression. Others progress more slowly. Any sudden change with either slow or rapid progression should be evaluated for another cause. In most cases, changes with dementia may seem like they came out of the blue when they actually may have been slowly developing in the background. The best way to prepare for changes and manage expectations is through information. Your doctor and medical team will be a valuable resource. There are a variety of educational resources that are also available through the Alzheimer’s Association.
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Try The Sage Evaluation For Yourself Today
According to the site, cognitive impairment and decline can sometimes go years without treatment. Sometimes, receiving vital care early may put a person in a much better position later.
While this isnt a diagnostic tool designed to detect Alzheimers or dementia specifically, it can be used to paint a portrait of any persons cognitive profile. Give it a shot yourself. You never know what your score may reveal.
How to take the SAGE test
First, grab a pen and paper. Then, follow these steps:
- Print it out and answer the questions in ink without the assistance of others.
- When youre done, take your answer sheet to your doctor so they can score it and talk to you about the results.
NOTE: Dont look at the clock or calendar while taking the test. If you have questions about an item, just do your best. The average time to complete this four-page test is 10 to 15 minutes, but there is no time limit.
What Is Dementia And What Causes It
Dementia is a syndrome that causes a person to develop difficulty and problems with their memory or their ability to think. Unlike the normal changes that happen in a persons memory and thinking over time, dementia affects someones ability to function in their daily life activities and their normal routine .There are different causes of dementia. These causes are typically underlying neurological conditions . One common cause of dementia is Alzheimers disease. Other causes include diseases that impact brain blood vessels. For example, strokes may cause what is commonly termed Vascular Dementia. Some causes include Lewy Body Disease and Parkinsons disease.
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Other Scans And Procedures To Diagnose Dementia
Other types of scan, such as a SPECT scan or a PET scan, may be recommended if the result of your MRI or CT scan is uncertain.
However, most people will not need these types of scans.
Both SPECT and PET scans look at how the brain functions, and can pick up abnormalities with the blood flow in the brain.
If a specialist is worried that epilepsy may be causing the dementia symptoms, an EEG may be taken to record the brain’s electrical signals , but this is rare.
Page last reviewed: 3 July 2020 Next review due: 3 July 2023
Assessment For Dementia Usually Includes The Following:
The doctor usually spends some time discussing your medical history and gathering information about your changes in memory and thinking.
Physical examination and laboratory tests
The symptoms of dementia can be due to a number of other possible causes, such as vitamin deficiency, infection, metabolic disorders and side effects from drugs.
These other causes are often easily treated.
Therefore, an early step in diagnosing dementia is to rule out these causes through a physical examination, blood tests and urine tests.
Routine laboratory tests used in the diagnosis of dementia include:
- Blood tests to investigate:
- Drug interactions and dosing problems
Cognitive tests are used to measure and evaluate cognitive, or thinking, functions such as memory, concentration, visual-spatial awareness, problem solving, counting and language skills.
Most doctors use short cognitive screening tests when assessing these functions. If more detailed testing is required you will be referred to a neuropsychologist a psychologist specialising in the assessment and measurement of cognitive function.
Cognitive tests are vital in the diagnosis of dementia and are often used to differentiate between types of dementia. They can also be used to assess mood and may help diagnose depression, which can cause symptoms similar to those of dementia.
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What New Methods For Diagnosing Alzheimers Disease Are Being Studied
Scientists are exploring ways to help physicians diagnose Alzheimers disease earlier and more accurately. The ultimate goal is a reliable, valid, and inexpensive diagnostic test that can be used in any doctors office.
Some studies focus on changes in personality and mental functioning, measured through memory and recall tests, which might point to early Alzheimers or predict whether individuals are at higher risk of developing the disease. Other studies are examining the relationship between early damage to brain tissue and outward clinical signs.
Another very promising area of diagnostic research is the analysis of biomarkersbiological signs of disease found in brain images, cerebrospinal fluid, and bloodto detect early changes in the brains of people with MCI and in cognitively normal people who may be at greater risk for Alzheimers disease. Studies indicate that such early detection may be possible, but more research is needed before these techniques can be relied upon to diagnose Alzheimers disease in everyday medical practice.
Alzheimers disease biomarkers:
Saint Louis University Mental Status Exam
The Saint Louis University Mental Status Exam is an 11-item Alzheimer’s screening test that is especially good at identifying people with milder cognitive problems that don’t yet rise to the level of dementia. It has been studied with hundreds of veterans and includes items such as the naming of animals and recognition of geometric figures.
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Blood Tests To Check For Other Conditions
Your GP will arrange for blood tests to help exclude other causes of symptoms that can be confused with dementia.
In most cases, these blood tests will check:
- liver function
- haemoglobin A1c
- vitamin B12 and folate levels
If your doctor thinks you may have an infection, they may also ask you to do a urine test or other investigations.
Read more about blood tests.