How is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?

According to the National Institute on Aging, “Alzheimer’s disease can be definitively diagnosed only after death by linking clinical course with an examination of brain tissue and pathology in an autopsy.
But doctors now have several methods and tools to help them determine fairly accurately whether a person who is having memory problems has “possible Alzheimer’s disease” (dementia may be due to another cause) or “probable Alzheimer’s disease” (no other cause for dementia can be found). To diagnose Alzheimer’s, doctors:
•ask questions about the person’s overall health, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality
•conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language
•carry out medical tests, such as tests of blood, urine, or spinal fluid
•perform brain scans, such as computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
These tests may be repeated to give doctors information about how the person’s memory is changing over time.
Early diagnosis is beneficial for several reasons. Having an early diagnosis and starting treatment in the early stages of the disease can help preserve function for months to years, even though the underlying disease process cannot be changed. Having an early diagnosis also helps families plan for the future, make living arrangements, take care of financial and legal matters, and develop support networks.
In addition, an early diagnosis can provide greater opportunities for people to get involved inclinicaltrials. In a clinical trial, scientists test drugs or treatments to see which are most effective and for whom they work best. “
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