Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease
Tests to Assess Dementia
- Neurological exam—exam of the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles) for evidence of other neurological disorders.
- Psychological evaluation—to look for depression or other emotional illnesses that may be the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Neuropsychological evaluation—to test language, memory, reasoning, judgment, and orientation
- Mental status testing—to test memory, sense of time and place, and problem-solving abilities, attention span, language skills, visual spatial perception, learning capacity, judgement, insight, and decision making skills (often a part of the Neurological examination and Neuropsychologic testing)
- CT scan and MRI scan—these machines can take a detailed picture of your brain to identify any abnormalities
- PET scan —machine can take a detailed picture of your brain to identify any abnormalities
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)—to test the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, may show infections that can cause dementia or show markers of Alzheimer's
Blood and Urine Tests
- Probable Alzheimer’s disease—This indicates that other dementia-related disorders have likely been ruled out. The symptoms are most likely due to Alzheimer’s disease. At least two areas of cognition are affected. One area is a worsening of memory.
- Possible Alzheimer’s disease—The dementia is possibly caused by Alzheimer’s disease. There may be other disorders that are causing of the dementia.
- Definite Alzheimer’s disease—This diagnosis can only be made at the time of death. It is done through an autopsy when the brain tissue can be examined. This is the only way to diagnose the disease with complete certainty.
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Alzheimer's disease medications fact sheet. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/medicationsfs.htm . Updated July 2010. Accessed August 22, 2012.
Ghidoni R, et al. Cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers in Alzheimer’s disease: the present and the future. Neurodegen Dis. 2011;8:413-420.
Hampel H, Frank R, Broich K, et al. Biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease: academic, industry and regulatory perspectives. Nat Rev Drug Discov . 2010;9(7):560-574.
Riverol M, Lopez OL. Biomarkers in Alzheimer’s disease. Front Neurol . 2011;2:46.
What is Alzheimer's? Alzheimer’s Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers%5Fdisease%5Fwhat%5Fis%5Falzheimers.asp . Accessed August 22, 2012.
- Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 09/2012 -
- Update Date: 00/92/2012 -