Tests used to help with Alzheimer's disease diagnosis

Laboratory tests: Tests of blood, urine, or spinal fluid can help the doctor find other possible diseases causing symptoms that mimic Alzheimer's symptoms.

Neuropsychological tests: These tests help to measure memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.

Imaging tests (such as brain scans): Allows the doctor to look at an image of the brain to see if anything does not look normal and rule out stroke, vascular problems, infections, and tumors.

Diagnosis also depends on patient history, a thorough physical and neurological examination, and use of diagnostic criteria. Examples of findings from the diagnostic criteria include:

  • Loss of memory and one or more additional cognitive (thinking) abilities:
  • disturbance in language
  • impaired ability to carry out motor activities despite intact motor function
  • failure to recognize or identify objects
  • disturbance in executive functions such as planning, organizing, sequencing, abstracting
  • Impairment in social or occupational functioning that is a decline from previously known ability and results in a significant disability
  • Slow, insidious onset and gradual progression of symptoms
  • Cognitive loss documented on neuropsychological tests
  • Lack of evidence of other diseases or medical conditions such as:
    • medication side effects
    • poisoning
    • metabolic problems
    • infection
    • stroke
    • Parkinson's disease
    • neurologic conditions (seizures, etc.)
    • brain abnormalities such as hemorrhage or tumor
    • fever or acute illness that could cause mental deficits

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