Symptoms and Diagnosis
Do you or a loved one feel forgetful, confused or even angry at times? As we age, we experience changes in memory and thinking. Recognizing common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can be difficult, and too often we account for those changes by blaming age, stress, depression or frailty.
The diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is a process of elimination. Through comprehensive medical testing and examination, other diseases are gradually excluded. There is no single test that can diagnose Alzheimer's, and it can take many years for symptoms of the disease to appear.
Three key questions are often considered in diagnosis:
- Is memory loss present?
- What could be causing memory loss?
- Are the symptoms and course of the disease consistent with what we know about Alzheimer's?
When seeking a diagnosis at Banner Alzheimer's Institute, keep in mind the following:
- At your appointment, the person with memory loss must be accompanied by a family member or friend.
- A family member must complete a very detailed medical and social history prior to the first visit.
- A physical and neurological examination will take place, along
with some cognitive tests that provide further information about
memory and thinking abilities.
- An analysis of the blood will be completed to evaluate overall health with attention to thyroid and nutritional deficiencies.
- Brain imaging using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan will be completed to rule out the presence of a stroke, tumor or fluid in the brain.
- Occasionally, additional neuropsychological testing, a spinal tap or positron emission tomography (PET) scan will be ordered to assist with the diagnosis.
- Genetic testing is typically not used to diagnose Alzheimer's.
Learn what to expect if your doctor suggests additional tests such as brain imaging.
Once the exam, lab and imaging results are completed and reviewed, the physician will make a more specific diagnosis. A treatment plan will be identified to address symptoms and assist with everyday living.