How Does A Doctor Test For Dementia
There is no single diagnostic test for Alzheimers disease and other causes of dementia. Dementias are diagnosed by evaluating and understanding a persons memory and thinking patterns. Doctors will consider a persons memory, grasp of language, mood states, problem-solving skills, ability to maintain focus and perform complex tasks. Evaluation may include in-office cognitive screening , physical examination, and review of labs. Labwork helps to determine whether there are vitamin deficiencies or hormonal changes at play. In some cases, evaluation may require neuropsychological testing, brain imaging , and genetic testing.
Gathering A Complete Medical History
As with the treatment of any medical condition, physicians will ask for a rundown of a patients past and present health issues and all medications they are currently taking. The doctor will also take a brief family medical history to assess the patients risk of developing certain conditions due to genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors. For example, if a patients parent had early-onset Alzheimers disease, it increases the likelihood that the patient will also develop this disease.
Could You Begin With Self
Yes, you may start with a self-assessment test. Many people who have memory loss concerns might want to start there.
Even though this is very hard for all humans to do, its best to listen to your friends and family members who might be recognizing things about your memory that you dont.
If they are expressing concerns about your memory. thats probably a good indication to get it professionally checked by a geriatrician, neurologist or a mental health professional.
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If Youre Worried About Possible Dementia
Lets say youre like the man I spoke to recently, and youre worried that an older parent might have dementia. Youre planning to have a doctor assess your parent. Heres how you can help the process along:
- Obtain copies of your parents medical information, so you can bring them to the dementia evaluation visit. The most useful information to bring is laboratory results and any imaging of the brain, such as CAT scans or MRIs. See this post for a longer list of medical information that is very helpful to bring to a new doctor.
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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Why Early Detection Can Be Difficult
Alzheimers disease usually is not diagnosed in the early stages, even in people who visit their primary care doctors with memory complaints.
- People and their families generally underreport the symptoms.
- They may confuse them with normal signs of aging.
- The symptoms may emerge so gradually that the person affected doesnt recognize them.
- The person may be aware of some symptoms but go to great lengths to conceal them.
Recognizing symptoms early is crucial because medication to control symptoms is most effective in the early stages of the disease and early diagnosis allows the individual and his or her family members to plan for the future. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the following symptoms, contact a physician.
Key Features Of Dementia
A person having dementia means that all five of the following statements are true:
- A person is having difficulty with one or more types of mental function. Although its common for memory to be affected, other parts of thinking function can be impaired. The 2013 DSM-5 manual lists these six types of cognitive function to consider: learning and memory, language, executive function, complex attention, perceptual-motor function, social cognition.
- The difficulties are a decline from the persons prior level of ability. These cant be lifelong problems with reading or math or even social graces. These problems should represent a change, compared to the persons usual abilities as an adult.
- The problems are bad enough to impair daily life function. Its not enough for a person to have an abnormal result on an office-based cognitive test. The problems also have to be substantial enough to affect how the person manages usual life, such as work and family responsibilities.
- The problems are not due to a reversible condition, such as delirium, or another reversible illness. Common conditions that can cause or worsen dementia-like symptoms include hypothyroidism, depression, and medication side-effects.
- The problems arent better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as depression or schizophrenia.
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Benefits Of The Clock
The clock-drawing test has these advantages:
- Fast screening tool: It is a very quick way to screen a person for possible dementia. It often requires only a minute or two for completion.
- Easy to administer: It does not require much training to administer.
- Well-tolerated: This test is easier to complete than the MMSE for people with short attention spans.
- Free: Unlike some cognitive tests that require you to purchase a copy of the test and scoring tools, the clock-drawing test can be completed with only the cost of paper and a pen.
- May be useful in developing countries: Because of the low cost and minimal training, this test can be used in countries with fewer resources.
- Screening for delirium: This test has also been administered to patients in the hospital to assess for signs of delirium. Delirium is a sudden deterioration in someones cognitive ability. It can follow the use of anesthesia for surgery, for example, as well as be triggered by an infection or illness.
Preparing For A Doctor’s Visit
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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.
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.
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How The Sage Test For Dementia Works
SAGE stands for Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination and was developed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
The SAGE test has 12 questions that cover all aspects of cognition, including memory, problem solving, and language.
There are 4 different versions of the test. Theyre similar enough, but having multiple versions means that someone could take the test once a year and wouldnt improve their score each year just from the practice of taking it before.
This way, the test is slightly different each time.
Is Alzheimers Diagnosed With A Blood Test
The other biomarker test, uses either a blood sample or, more commonly, a cerebral spinal fluid sample. The CSF sample is obtained via a spinal tap.
We look for markers of Alzheimers disease in the blood and the spinal fluid samples. These are pieces of the plaques and tangles that might be circulating in the blood or spinal fluid.
Therefore, the patient can have a thinking and memory test, and then typically the physician will add on additional tests. One could be a PET scan of the brain and the other one could be a test of either the blood or cerebral spinal fluid.
Diagnosing Alzheimers disease is a process. And its typically a combination of these three approaches: Cognitive Testing, PET biomarkers and fluid either blood or spinal biomarkers.
In all cases, personal results are compared to norms. The person is compared to other healthy people in the population that are approximately just like them. Neurologists look at the levels of all of the things that they are measuring to determine if they think its Alzheimers disease.
And thats how a diagnosis goes.
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Dementia Tests You Can Do At Home
There is no one correct way that you can test for conditions like Alzheimers or other forms of dementia without taking a medical test that a doctor can give. But you can do an easy memory test at home. The test may help give you an indication that something may be wrong with your, or somebody elses memory. It helps differentiate between normal everyday forgetfulness that we sometimes get and something more serious.
We take a look at two ways that you can a do at home dementia test
Word Association Tests
Simple word tests can be used to help detect memory problems a person may have.
Our brain saves and stores all the words we learn during our lives in our memories which then allows us to recollect what a word means without thinking about it.
A person who is having difficulty remembering words or confusing their words could have a problem that is associated with their memory. Word association tests such as the one below seem to work well in detecting memory problems.
- Ask the individual taking the test to name all the animals they can think of in one minute.
- Ask the individual to name all the types of fruit they can remember in one minute.
Test Results Research has found that a healthy individuals scoring should between 20 to 25 words in the time given whereas a person who may have memory problems usually scores between 10 15
The Clock Drawing Test. Do at Home Dementia Test.
Dementia Clock Test Results
What Are The Different Types Of Dementia
Various disorders and factors contribute to the development of dementia. Neurodegenerative disorders result in a progressive and irreversible loss of neurons and brain functioning. Currently, there are no cures for these diseases.
The five most common forms of dementia are:
- Alzheimers disease, the most common dementia diagnosis among older adults. It is caused by changes in the brain, including abnormal buildups of proteins, known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
- Frontotemporal dementia, a rare form of dementia that tends to occur in people younger than 60. It is associated with abnormal amounts or forms of the proteins tau and TDP-43.
- Lewy body dementia, a form of dementia caused by abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies.
- Vascular dementia, a form of dementia caused by conditions that damage blood vessels in the brain or interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
- Mixed dementia, a combination of two or more types of dementia.
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What Kind Of Doctor Tests For Dementia
A primary care doctor can perform a physical exam and find out more about your symptoms to determine what may be the cause. They will likely refer you to one or several specialists that can perform specific tests to diagnose dementia. Specialists may include neurologists, who specialize in the brain and nervous system psychiatrists or psychologists, who specialize in mental health, mental functions, and memory or geriatricians, who specialize in healthcare for older adults.
Who Is This Dementia Quiz For
Below is a list of 10 questions designed for people who are concerned about memory loss. The questions relate to life experiences common among people who have been diagnosed with dementia, a neurocognitive disorder, and are based on criteria in the DSM-5 .
Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months.
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What Is Dementia Symptoms Types And Diagnosis
Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning thinking, remembering, and reasoning to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of living.
Dementia is more common as people grow older but it is not a normal part of aging. Many people live into their 90s and beyond without any signs of dementia.
There are several different forms of dementia, including Alzheimers disease. A persons symptoms can vary depending on the type.
Next Steps Following Diagnosis
Right now, there is no available treatment that can effectively halt or reverse the progression of Alzheimers disease. Certain medications and therapeutic interventions have been shown to help dementia patients maintain their physical and mental functionality for as long as possible, but none of these options constitutes a cure. After receiving an Alzheimers diagnosis, it is important for patients and their family members to learn about the disease and make legal, financial, and health care plans for the uncertain future. Being as prepared as possible can help minimize challenges and surprises in the later stages of the disease progression.
Doctors hold out hope that, if they can catch the disease earlier, they may be able to develop more successful treatment plans that will improve health outcomes for patients. In the meantime, the best thing for people to do is embrace a healthy lifestyle and be proactive when it comes to medical testing for AD and all other health conditions.
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Early Symptoms Of Dementia
Although the early signs vary, common early symptoms of dementia include:
- memory problems, particularly remembering recent events
- increasing confusion
- apathy and withdrawal or depression
- loss of ability to do everyday tasks.
Sometimes, people fail to recognise that these symptoms indicate that something is wrong. They may mistakenly assume that such behaviour is a normal part of the ageing process. Symptoms may also develop gradually and go unnoticed for a long time. Also, some people may refuse to act, even when they know something is wrong.
How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed
To diagnose Alzheimers, doctors may:
- Ask the person and 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
- Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language
- Carry out standard medical tests, such as blood and urine tests, to identify other possible causes of the problem
- Perform brain scans, such as computed tomography , magnetic resonance imaging , or positron emission tomography , to rule out other possible causes for symptoms
These tests may be repeated to give doctors information about how the persons memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time. They can also help diagnose other causes of memory problems, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinsons disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, mild cognitive impairment, or a non-Alzheimers dementia, including vascular dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.
People with memory problems should return to the doctor every 6 to 12 months.
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