Medical Tests & Diagnosis Methods/Tools
There are no specific tests to diagnose Alzheimers disease thus
the process of diagnosing the disease involves exclusion - ruling out
the ...other diseases and conditions that can cause memory loss."
In order to differentiate AD from other causes of memory loss, the following
aspects are taken into consideration.
Doctors will enquire about the individuals general health state
and past medical history to know and understand if the individual is facing
any difficulty in performing routine activities. In the process, the doctor
may talk with family, friends and colleagues to collect more information.
Routine basic diagnostic tests such as blood tests, thyroid and
liver function tests, glucose tests etc., indicating illnesses
are conducted to rule out other diseases. Depression screening
may also be conducted and at times a spinal fluid collected for
In addition, the doctor will also inquire about diet, nutrition
and consumption of alcohol. The doctor will also review all the
patient's medications including over-the-counter drugs and supplements.
He or she will also try to identify other disorders that can cause
loss of memory, confusion, attention deficit or symptoms similar
to dementia and Alzheimer's disease that include:
- Anemia, malnutrition or vitamin deficiencies
- Excess consumption of alcohol
- Side effects of medication
- Kidney or liver disease
- Thyroid abnormalities
- Problems with the heart, lung or blood vessels
Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE):
This is one of the most common tests used to the assess mental function
of the patient. It involves various questions typically framed to examine
the mental skills required to perform day-to-day routine activities. The
questions may be as follows:
- To remember and recall the names of three common objects such as a
lock, pen and penny after a few minutes.
- To state the current date, day of the week, year
- Count backwards from 100 by 7s or spell a word
- Name a couple of familiar objects that the doctor
- Tell a common proverb or saying to the examiner.
Various other such questions are posed and the results evaluated. A maximum
score of 30 MMSE points are taken for consideration. A score of 20-24
suggest mild dementia/AD, 13-20 suggest moderate dementia/AD and below
12 indicates severe dementia/AD. On average, the score declines by 2-4
points every year for a person suffering from AD (15).
A smaple of a "Mini-cog" test (cog = cognition)
involves the following two types of tests:
1. Remembering and repeating the names of three
2. Drawing a clock and showing 12 numbers in their places and time asked
for by the examiner. (15)
This is an important test to assess the proper functioning of the nervous
system as a whole and the brain in particular, to identify disorders,
if any, other than Alzheimers disease. The physician may test for
reflexes, coordination and balance, muscle tone and strength, eye movement,
speech and sensation. (15)
- Structural Imaging: This technique furnishes information
such as shape, position or volume of brain tissue. These techniques
include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT).
- Functional Imaging: This technique reveals the working
of cells in various regions of the brain by ...showing how
actively the cells use sugar or oxygen. Functional Imagin
includes positron emission tomography (PET) and functional MRI (fMRI).
Article by Kona Vishnu, MS
Page Covers: What kind of testing is done to diagnose Alzheimer's
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