S Doctors Take To Diagnose Dementia
Doctors typically go through 5 areas of evaluation to figure out whether or not someone has dementia. The doctor needs to check each area and document what they find.
1. Difficulty with mental functionsThis is usually evaluated with a combination of an office-based cognitive test and finding out about real-world problems by talking with their patient and people close to them.
2. Decline from previous level of abilityThis can be more difficult for a doctor to determine, so they need to talk with people who know the patient well to understand their previous abilities versus what they can do today.
For example, if a former accountant can no longer do basic math, thats a decline from their previous ability.
3. Impairment of daily life functionThis can also be tough for doctors to evaluate on their own.
So, the doctor will ask people close to their patient about what types of help the person is getting in their daily life and what problems family members have noticed.
4. Reversible causes of cognitive impairmentCertain conditions can cause temporary dementia-like symptoms.
Other medical problems that interfere with thinking skills include medication side effects, thyroid problems, electrolyte imbalances, B12 deficiency, substance abuse, and other treatable health conditions.
Promoting Early Diagnosis Of Dementia
The early symptoms of dementia can include memory problems, difficulties in word finding and thinking processes, changes in personality or behaviour, a lack of initiative or changes in day to day function at home, at work or in taking care of oneself. This information does not include details about all of these warning signs, so it is recommended that you seek other sources of information. If you notice signs in yourself or in a family member or friend, it is important to seek medical help to determine the cause and significance of these symptoms.
Obtaining a diagnosis of dementia can be a difficult, lengthy and intensive process. While circumstances differ from person to person, Dementia Australia believes that everyone has the right to:
- A thorough and prompt assessment by medical professionals,
- Sensitive communication of a diagnosis with appropriate explanation of symptoms and prognosis,
- Sufficient information to make choices about the future,
- Maximal involvement in the decision making process,
- Ongoing maintenance and management, and
- Access to support and services.
What To Expect When You See A Gp About Dementia
A GP will ask about your symptoms and other aspects of your health.
They’ll also ask if you’re finding it difficult to manage everyday activities such as:
- washing and dressing
- cooking and shopping
- paying bills
If possible, someone who knows you well should be with you at your GP appointment, so they can describe any changes or problems they’ve noticed. They could also help you remember what was said at the appointment, if this is difficult for you.
Memory problems do not necessarily mean you have dementia. These problems can have other causes, such as:
- an underactive thyroid
- side effects of some medicines
To help rule out other causes of memory problems, the GP will do a physical examination and may organise tests, such as a blood test and urine test.
You’ll also be asked to do a memory or cognitive test to check any problems with your memory or ability to think clearly.
Read more about the tests used to diagnose dementia.
Also Check: Alzheimer’s Color Ribbon
What Are The Signs Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists continue to unravel the complex brain changes involved in the onset and progression of Alzheimers disease. It seems likely that damage to the brain starts a decade or more before memory and other cognitive problems appear. During this preclinical stage of Alzheimers disease, people seem to be symptom-free, but toxic changes are taking place in the brain.
Damage occurring in the brain of someone with Alzheimers disease begins to show itself in very early clinical signs and symptoms. For most people with Alzheimersthose who have the late-onset varietysymptoms first appear in their mid-60s. Signs of early-onset Alzheimers begin between a persons 30s and mid-60s.
The first symptoms of Alzheimers vary from person to person. Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimers disease. Decline in non-memory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may also signal the very early stages of Alzheimers disease. And some people may be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. As the disease progresses, people experience greater memory loss and other cognitive difficulties.
Alzheimers disease progresses in several stages: preclinical, mild , moderate, and severe .
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.
Don’t Miss: Quality Of Life Alzheimer’s Disease
What Should You Not Say To Someone With Dementia
Here are some things to remember not to say to someone with dementia, and what you can say instead.Youre wrong Do you remember? They passed away. I told you What do you want to eat? Come, lets get your shoes on and get to the car, we need to go to the store for some groceries.More items
What Are Some Risk Factors For Alzheimers Disease
Risk factors for the development of Alzheimers disease include:
- Age. Increasing age is the primary risk factor for developing Alzheimers disease.
- Genetics . There is a certain gene, apolipoprotein E that is associated with late-onset Alzheimers disease. Other genes have been associated with early-onset Alzheimers disease.
Researchers believe the presence of the last five risk factors mentioned above might reduce the clearance of amyloid protein from the brain, which then increases the risk of developing Alzheimers disease. In particular, the presence of a number of these risk factors at the same time and while the person is in his or her 50s is associated with a higher risk of Alzheimers disease.
There may be some ways to reduce the risk of mental decline. In general, living a healthy lifestyle protects the body from strokes and heart attacks and is believed to also protect the brain from cognitive decline. Scientists cant absolutely prove the cause and effect of the following factors, but studies have shown a positive association.
You May Like: Alzheimer’s Awareness Color
How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed
Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine if a person with thinking or memory problems has Alzheimers disease. To diagnose Alzheimers, doctors may:
- Ask the person experiencing symptoms, as well as a family member or friend, questions about overall health, use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, diet, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality.
- Administer a psychiatric evaluation to determine if depression or another mental health condition is causing or contributing to a person’s symptoms.
- Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
- Order blood, urine, and other standard medical tests that can help identify other possible causes of the problem.
- Perform brain scans, such as computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , or positron emission tomography , to support an Alzheimers diagnosis or rule out other possible causes for symptoms.
Doctors may want to repeat these tests to help best determine how the persons memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time. The tests can also help diagnose other causes of memory problems, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinsons disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or another type of dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.
People with memory problems should return to the doctor every six to 12 months.
Can Dementia Be Diagnosed During A Single Visit
So can dementia be diagnosed during a single visit? As you can see from above, it depends on how much information is easily available at that visit. It also depends on the symptoms and circumstances of the older adult being evaluated.
Memory clinics are more likely to provide a diagnosis during the visit, or shortly afterwards. Thats because they usually request a lot of relevant medical information ahead of time, send the patient for tests if needed, and interview the patient and informers extensively during the visit.
But in the primary care setting, and in my own geriatric consultations, I find that clinicians need more than one visit to diagnose dementia or probable dementia. Thats because we usually need to order tests, request past medical records for review, and gather more information from the people who know the senior being evaluated. Its a bit like a detectives investigation!
Recommended Reading: Does Diet Coke Cause Dementia
Can Dementia Get Worse Suddenly
Dementia is a progressive condition, meaning that it gets worse over time. The speed of deterioration differs between individuals. Age, general health and the underlying disease causing brain damage will all affect the pattern of progression. However, for some people the decline can be sudden and rapid.
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.
You May Like: Alzheimer’s And Neurotransmitters
Getting Treatment After An Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis
While there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, physicians at the Alzheimer Center can recommend a treatment regimen to help maintain the patient’s quality of life and slow the progress of the disease. Treatment options may include medication, education for patients and their families, and treatment of other conditions that may be affecting the patient.
Dennis Selkoe, MD, Co-director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases, discusses progress in the development of Alzheimer’s disease treatments that target the amyloid beta protein. Read the Research Updates on Amyloid Beta and Alzheimer’s Disease video transcript.
In addition to providing Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and treatment, physicians in the Department of Neurology Services may provide treatment for sleep disorders, migraine treatment, and offer an EMG test for patients experiencing unexplained muscle weakness. Patients may also consult with doctors in the neurosurgery department for conditions that include brain tumors, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral nerve damage, epilepsy and seizure, and other conditions.
Who Is This Dementia Quiz For
Below is a list of 9 questions composed for people who are concerned about memory loss. The questions relate to life experiences common among people who have symptoms of dementia, currently known as Neurocognitive Disorder , and are based on criteria in the DSM-5.
The following questions encompass the six domains of cognition that are evaluated when assessing symptoms NCD: executive functioning, complex attention, perceptual-motor ability, social interactions, learning/memory-related difficulties, and challenges involving daily activities.
Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months.
You May Like: Alzheimer’s Disease Neurotransmitters
What Are The Symptoms Of Early
For most people with early-onset Alzheimer disease, the symptoms closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer disease.
Withdrawal from work and social situations
Changes in mood and personality
Severe mood swings and behavior changes
Deepening confusion about time, place, and life events
Suspicions about friends, family, or caregivers
Trouble speaking, swallowing, or walking
Severe memory loss
What Are The 5 Worst Foods For Memory
The Worst Foods for Your Brain5 / 12. Diet Sodas and Drinks With Artificial Sweeteners. 6 / 12. French Fries and Other Fried Foods. 7 / 12. Doughnuts. 8 / 12. White Bread and White Rice. 9 / 12. Red Meat. 10 / 12. Butter and Full-Fat Cheese. 11 / 12. Swordfish and Ahi Tuna. 12 / 12. Bottled Dressings, Marinades, and Syrups.More itemsOct 28, 2020
You May Like: Margaret Thatcher Dementia
How Does Peanut Butter Detect Alzheimers
The researchers discovered that those who had an impaired sense of smell in the left nostril had early-stage Alzheimers. They noted that the participants needed to be an average of 10 centimeters closer to the peanut butter container in order to smell it from their left nostril compared to their right nostril.
Current Practice In Diagnosing Dementia
The remainder of this information will provide an overview of the diagnosis process and a guide to what happens after diagnosis.
It is important to remember that there is no definitive test for diagnosing Alzheimers disease or any of the other common causes of dementia. Findings from a variety of sources and tests must be pooled before a diagnosis can be made, and the process can be complex and time consuming. Even then, uncertainty may still remain, and the diagnosis is often conveyed as possible or probable. Despite this uncertainty, a diagnosis is accurate around 90% of the time.
People with significant memory loss without other symptoms of dementia, such as behaviour or personality changes, may be classified as having a Mild Cognitive Impairment . MCI is a relatively new concept and more research is needed to understand the relation between MCI and later development of dementia. However, MCI does not necessarily lead to dementia and regular monitoring of memory and thinking skills is recommended in individuals with this diagnosis.
Also Check: Color For Alzheimer’s Ribbon
What Are The Benefits Of An Early Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Alzheimers disease slowly worsens over time. People living with this disease progress at different rates, from mild Alzheimers, when they first notice symptoms, to severe, when they are completely dependent on others for care.
Early, accurate diagnosis is beneficial for several reasons. While there is no cure, there are several medicines available to treat Alzheimers, along with coping strategies to manage behavioral symptoms. Beginning treatment early in the disease process may help preserve daily functioning for some time. Most medicines work best for people in the early or middle stages of the disease. Learn more about Alzheimers medications.
In addition, having an early diagnosis helps people with Alzheimers and their families:
When You Need A Brain Scanand When You Dont
It is normal to forget things as you age. But many older people worry that they are getting Alzheimers disease when they cant remember things.
A new drug, used with a PET scan of the brain, can help diagnose Alzheimers. But before getting this scan you should have a complete medical exam. If your exam shows serious memory loss and your doctor cannot find a cause for it, then you should have the scan. Otherwise, the results can be misleading and you should not get the scan. Heres why:
The scan does not prove that you have Alzheimers.
Alzheimers can be found in the brain because it involves abnormal cell clumps. These clumps are called plaques. A PET scanwhich is an imaging testcan show these plaques, using a radioactive drug. During the test, the drug is injected into your body, where it attaches to the plaques. Then pictures are taken of your brain. The drug highlights the plaques so they can be seen on the scan.
If the scan does not show any plaques in your brain, then it is much less likely that you have Alzheimers. However, you can have plaques in your brain but not have Alzheimers. And having plaques does not mean that you will get Alzheimers in the future.
Alzheimers is not the only cause of forgetting things.
Medicines can also cause memory loss and thinking problems. So if you have symptoms, it is important to find out what the cause is.
Finding the cause starts with a medical evaluation.
The new scan can pose risks.
It can be expensive.
Also Check: What Causes Senile Dementia
Stage : Moderately Severe Dementia
When the patient begins to forget the names of their children, spouse, or primary caregivers, they are most likely entering stage 6 of dementia and will need full time care. In the sixth stage, patients are generally unaware of their surroundings, cannot recall recent events, and have skewed memories of their personal past. Caregivers and loved ones should watch for:
- Delusional behavior
Is Dementia A Mental Illness
Dementia is a mental health disorder as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association changed the name to Major Neurocognitive Disorder, which is a mouthful. The change was made in order to provide a clearer description of the problem. Whats most important to know is that dementias can involve changes to emotions, behaviors, perceptions, and movements in addition to memory and thinking.
Also Check: Diet Coke And Dementia