There is currently no specific test that can confirm whether a person is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or will suffer in the future. For now, the doctor can only be limited to make an analysis of the symptoms that the patient is manifesting and, on the information provided and the results of some tests, to be able to determine and clarify the diagnosis.
Doctors can, for the time being, determine if the patient is suffering from dementia and can often relate the cause of dementia to Alzheimer’s. In fact, the pathology can only be accurately diagnosed after death, when a microscopic examination of the brain tissue reveals the existence of Alzheimer’s plaques and tangles.
In order to distinguish Alzheimer’s disease from other causes of memory loss, physicians rely on the following types of tests:
Performing a physical and neurological exam.
The doctor performs a physical examination and a neurological examination in order to check the patient’s state of health, and thus, to be able to draw objective conclusions. For this you will analyze:
- The reflexes
- The tone and muscular strength
- The ability to get up from a chair and walk around a room
- Sense of sight and hearing
- The equilibrium
Blood tests can help rule out other pathologies as possible causes of memory loss and confusion, such as thyroid gland disorders and even deficiency of some vitamins.
Diagnostic tests for mental health
The doctor in charge of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease can perform small tests, very fast and concrete, in order to evaluate the memory and the reasoning skills of the patient. This type of tests can be done in about 10 minutes.
But the doctor may ask for broader tests, in this case neuropsychological tests that may take up to several hours to complete, and provide additional details about mental function compared to other subjects of the same age and level of education.
These tests also identify patterns of change associated with different types of dementia and can help physicians estimate the ability to manage important aspects of the patient’s life, such as making medical or financial decisions.
Analyze the state of the brain using imaging tests:
This type of test is used to detect visible abnormalities that are related to the different symptoms of Alzheimer’s, such as strokes, trauma or tumors that can cause a change at the cognitive level. The latest applications in this type of techniques allow professionals to detect specific changes in the brain caused by the disease. The most used techniques are:
- CT scan
- Magnetic resonance
- Positron emission tomography
Researchers are working on the development of new diagnostic tools that allow them to definitively diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Another important goal is to detect the disease before it triggers specific symptoms by using diagnostic techniques. Thus, it could treat the disease in its early stages, and still unable to cure the disease, if they could delay and minimize the effects of the symptoms that develop the patients who are suffering.