Alzheimer's Disease: Symptoms and Diagnosis

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Dr. Guy Eakin

Diagnosing Alzheimer's disease during the patient's lifetime is done through mental and behavioral symptoms, a physical examination, and neuropsychological and laboratory tests. In this segment Dr. Eakin discusses screening methods and new options on the horizon.

  • Dr. Guy Eakin:

    Hi! I'm Dr. Guy Eakin. I'm going to explain the symptoms of Alzheimer's and how the disease is diagnosed.

    Today for most people the only way to definitively diagnose Alzheimer's is through a brain autopsy. While a person is alive, physicians can correctly diagnose Alzheimer's disease about 90% of the time based on mental and behavioral symptoms, a physical examination and neuropsychological and laboratory tests. Using information provided by the patient and the family, the physician will first take a history of mental and behavioral symptoms. Early-stage patients experience memory problems that interfere with daily living and steadily worsen. Other early symptoms can include difficulty managing money, driving, following instructions and finding the right words. A physical examination will then be performed to help identify and rule out other potential causes of Dementia. This examine would normally include a general physical blood test and urinalysis. Initially the doctor may administer a screening tool to help confirm that the patient is experiencing problems with intellectual functions.

    The screening will include test of memory, attention, mathematical calculation and language. Many scientists are researching new ways to inexpensively and reliably diagnose Alzheimer's disease earlier and with more accuracy. The majority of this research focuses on sophisticated MRI like techniques for imaging the brain. Other lines of research examine the spinal fluid for telltale signs of the disease.

    If someone is exhibiting symptoms that could potentially be a result of Alzheimer's or another type of Dementia or if you believe someone close to you may be affected, you should consult a physician as soon as possible. Since the majority of medications seem to be effective in the first stages of the disease, early screening and diagnosis are critically important.

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