Loss of memory that disrupts daily life could be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease or other neurologic conditions. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that results in a slow decline in thinking, memory and reasoning skills.
To detect Alzheimer’s disease, physicians perform exams to judge functional abilities, analyze memory impairment and other thinking skills, and identify behavior changes. They also conduct various tests to rule out other possible causes of impairment.
Early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s
- Memory impairment
- Difficulty planning, concentrating or solving a problem
- Difficulty completing daily tasks at work or home
- Confusion with location
- Poor judgment in decisions
- Language problems like word-finding issues or reduced vocabulary in writing or speech
- Space or visual difficulties like getting lost, not understanding distance in driving and so on
Withdrawals from social engagements or work events
Mood changes like depression or other personality and behavior changes
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease
Your neurologist or specialist doctor will look at your medical and medication history as well as your symptoms. They will perform a series of tests to uncover what’s causing the signs and symptoms you are experiencing. They may also order additional lab tests, brain imaging tests or even refer you for memory testing. The results will provide insights for diagnosis, and help them rule out other conditions that have the same symptoms.
Alzheimer’s occurs due to the progressive loss of brain cells. The wasting away of brain cells may reveal in a number of ways in brain scans. While scans alone can’t make a diagnosis, they help in a range of ways, including:
- Differentiating between different types of neurologic conditions
- Ruling out other cases like brain tumors, hemorrhages, or strokes
- Determining a baseline about the extent of shrinkage
Some commonly used brain-imaging technologies include:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
This machine uses powerful magnets and radio waves to take clear images of your brain. Physicians from Intermountain Medical Imaging in Boise Idaho use NeuroQuant, a top software that analyzes the brain MRI to enhance the early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease among other degenerative brain diseases.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Other than the MRI, physicians can also use a PET scan to assess the condition. PET scan uses a tracer, which is a radioactive substance that detects clusters of amyloid proteins, which are often tied to Alzheimer’s.
Your doctor will recommend a lab test to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms as those of Alzheimer’s disease, such as vitamin B12 deficiency or a thyroid disorder.
Assessing memory issues and other symptoms
Your doctor may ask you to respond to some questions or carry out tasks linked to your cognitive skills, like abstract thinking, memory, language usage, problem-solving, and related skills. He or she may perform mental status exams to analyze your cognitive and memory skills and use scores to assess your extent of cognitive impairment. He or she may also perform extensive neuropsychological tests to evaluate your memory and thinking skills, and even do interviews with friends and family to uncover any changes. With these tests, the doctor will be able to establish whether you have Alzheimer’s.