Before a person is diagnosed with Dementia, a series of tests will be carried out to ensure all possible elements are examined and considered. There are a few common tests used to diagnose Dementia. These tests, known as diagnostic tests, examine a person’s mental capacities and also review their blood and brain activity.
To determine if someone has Dementia, a doctor may test a person’s mental abilities through the use of a questionnaire. This is a useful tool in understanding the severity of someone’s memory problems.
A commonly used questionnaire to assist with this is called the Mini Mental State Examination or the MMSE. The MMSE analyzes several areas of mental capacities, such as: communication skills, concentration, short and long-term memory and the ability to listen and follow directions.
During Dementia testing, a person’s medical history will be looked at. The doctor may ask about any illnesses or injuries you’ve had/ have as well as your family member’s. It is especially important to note if you have a family history with Alzheimer's disease or Dementia. It is also important to tell your doctor about any and all medication that you are taking.
A physical exam is usually done to assess overall health. Normally, your blood pressure, heart rate and lungs will be checked. Blood may also be drawn and a urine sample may be required for thorough examination. Blood tests are very useful in ruling out the cause for certain symptoms.
Once certain conditions have been ruled out, a brain scan may be conducted to uncover if there are other problems responsible for the symptoms. For example, signs of a stroke or a brain tumour. A CT scan, or a Computerised Tomography Scan, is used to detect these conditions. An MRI scan, or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan, may also be carried out if detailed information about brain activity is needed.
As imaging technologies continue to advance, so does our understanding of the function of the brain. Researchers are hard at work to learn how they can develop brain imaging to start diagnosing Alzheimer's disease earlier.
Alz.org. 2016. Tests for Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia. Accessed at: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_steps_to_diagnosis.asp.
Nhs.uk. 2016. Tests for diagnosing dementia. Accessed at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia-guide/pages/dementia-diagnosis-tests.aspx.