Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease
There is no specific test available at present that can specifically diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Your doctor will make the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, based on information you provide, thorough physical and neurological examination and various tests done to support diagnosis (such as brain imaging such as CT scan, MRI, PET, and various lab tests). With all these it is not difficult for your doctor to identify if you have dementia and if your dementia is due to Alzheimer’s disease. However, diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be confirmed only after examining brain tissue under microscope, which can be done only after death of the patient, as microscopic examination of brain reveal characteristic tangles and plaques.ID-100438431
Your doctor may depend on various methods for diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, such as physical and neurological examination, lab tests, brain imaging etc.
Physical and neurological examination for Alzheimer’s disease:
Your doctor will do a physical examination to find out muscle tone and strength, reflexes, coordination, balance, vision, hearing etc.
Mental state of the patient should be examined by a neuropsychiatrist to find out how much abnormality is present.
Lab tests for Alzheimer’s disease:
Your doctor may ask you to undergo various lab tests, which can usually identify potential causes of memory loss such as thyroid tests, blood levels of various vitamins. CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) analysis can help in finding some biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease, which can be of great help in diagnosis.
Brain imaging for diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease:
Brain imaging can help find out other conditions in brain other than Alzheimer’s disease, such as stroke, tumor in brain or trauma, all of these may have effect in cognitive function. Various brain images done for Alzheimer’s disease include,
CT scan: this is done mainly to rule out stroke, tumors or head injury in a suspected Alzheimer’s disease patient.
MRI: this is usually done to rule out other medical conditions that may affect cognitive symptoms. MRI can also detect if there is any shrinkage of brain due to Alzheimer’s disease.
PET (positron emission tomography): PRT scan can show various parts/regions of brain that may not be functioning optimally. Latest PET scans can detect even plaques and tangles that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease and help in confirming diagnosis. But these latest techniques are currently available only in research centers/institutes.
All the above mentioned methods help in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. Your doctor will carefully evaluate history, physical examination, lab tests and various brain imaging to come to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Future diagnostic approaches in Alzheimer’s disease:
There are various methods under development for definite diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. It will be best if doctors can detect Alzheimer’s disease before it appears. Future tools for diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease include,
The PET imaging that can detect plaques and tangles that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
Detection of biomarkers in blood and CSF
Improvement in mental ability tests