There are many treatable conditions which have similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s and these are considered in any medical investigation. The loss of memory, reduced concentration, depression and withdrawal from work and regular social activities can often relate to the factors; medication and other illnesses such as depression after the death of a loved one, or medical conditions, such as a small stroke.
There isn’t a single test that can accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and doctors who specialise in this treatment can only correctly diagnose the condition around 90% of the time.
Doctors will perform a variety of tests and laboratory measurements as no biological evidence can be obtained whilst the person is still alive; the plaques and tangles which form in the brain of the Alzheimer’s sufferer can only be fond when brain tissue is viewed under a microscope.
Doctors will build up a profile of the patient, consider and implement the following:
- Medical History – The person’s physical health is considered, medical problems and any prescription drugs being used. The doctor may wish to confer with close family members. the ability of the person to perform typical daily activities.
- Physical Examination – This will include sight and hearing tests, pulse and blood pressure checked. A different condition other than Alzheimer’s may be diagnosed.
- Laboratory Testing – Blood and urine are tested to check indicators which, again, may point to another condition. Occasionally, a small sample of spinal fluid may be taken and tested.
- Neuropsychological Testing – The specific problems that the person has are assessed through tools for testing memory, vision and motor coordination, counting and problem solving. A clearer understanding of the symptoms can provide clues as to the underlying cause.
- Brain Imaging Scan – Non-invasive scanning of the brain captures a picture of it which allows the doctor to identify if anything abnormal is occurring; problems such as brain tumours, blood clots, thyroid gland problems, drug reactions or disease of the blood vessels may be the cause of the symptoms, which are likely to be treatable conditions.
- Consultation with the Family Members – Close friends and family can often identify the problems that the person is suffering from and which the sufferer may be unaware of.