The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is one of ‘exclusion’ – you exclude other conditions first that may be responsible for producing the symptoms of memory loss, confusion, personality change, etc. There is no specific “test” to determine Alzheimer’s Disease. The only definitive diagnosis is given after a post-mortem brain autopsy is performed.
Since there are numerous conditions that mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, a thorough evaluation is recommended in order to rule out any condition that may be treatable. A neurologist, memory disorder clinic, or hospital with a specified geriatric program can do effective evaluations.
A typical evaluation of a patient with suspected Alzheimer’s disease generally includes the following:
social/medical history sensory/motor exams mental status exams CT SCAN or MRI (can show brain atrophy, shrinkage, tumors, strokes) tPET or SPECT SCAN (allows brain functioning to be evaluated) EEG (shows brain wave activity) blood tests, urine tests lumbar puncture (determines malignancies, infections)
After a thorough evaluation, and if the above tests are performed and prove negative, a diagnosis of “probable Alzheimer’s” is made. It is at this point that the caregiver needs to become fully educated regarding Alzheimer’s disease, and seek out a supportive network of family, professionals and friends. Support is very important.
From the Latin words "mind" and "away".