It's a scary reality when you reach a point in your life where you have to think about Alzheimer testing, either for yourself or a loved one. While testing for Alzheimer’s Disease is relatively easy, the consequences and outcomes may not be so easy to deal with.
Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
Alzheimer's is a progressive disease in which the symptoms gradually worsen over the years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild and less noticeable, but as Alzheimer's progresses, individuals lose almost all of their ability to interact and live independently.
Alzheimer's live an average of eight years after their symptoms become
noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years.
Sadly, there is no proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s, though theories have been proposed, such as keeping an "active" brain throughout life. Medical treatment is available to help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer testing involves an in-depth analysis of the person’s medical history, interviews, mental functioning testing, and brain scanning.
Alzheimer’s disease comes on slowly, and it’s presumed that the disease begins developing in the brain ten years or more before symptoms even show.
The Alzheimer’s Association has identified seven stages of Alzheimer’s disease progression:
Alzheimer’s disease isn’t the actual direct cause of death.
infection, falls, strokes, or choking, all as a result of the person’s
impaired mental state, are the cause of death.
There is no single, clear-cut Alzheimer testing available, as the diagnosis comes from a series of tests, interviews, and screening tools. You can begin by taking this simple cognitive test.
A person is usually brought in for Alzheimer testing when a family member or caregiver begins to observe noticeable declines in the person’s memory, especially in areas they never had a problem with before.
First, a healthcare provider will conduct a series of interviews with the patient and their friends, family, or caregiver.
A review of the person’s past medical history, use of medications, drug and alcohol use, and a physical and neurological assessment will be done as well, to rule out other possible problems. From here, the healthcare provider can begin piecing together a history of when the mental decline began and how far it has progressed.
Next, the healthcare provider will conduct a Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) to get a thorough look at the functioning of the person's mental capabilities.
The MMSE asks the patient things like:
The MMSE has a maximum score of 30.
Any score above 25 indicates normal cognitive functioning; a score between 20 and 24 suggests mild dementia; a score between 13 and 20 suggests moderate dementia; and a score of less than 12 indicates severe dementia.
After the interview, assessments, and MMSE, the healthcare provider may feel that there is enough to diagnose or rule out Alzheimer's. However, they may decide that more Alzheimer testing is needed, and a brain-imaging MRI or CT scan will be scheduled.
A brain scan will help show areas of the brain that aren't functioning as much as other areas.
New Alzheimer testing methods have been developed to help detect Alzheimer's earlier. This new method involves a PET scan of the brain to look for amyloid-beta plaques building up in the brain.
A dye is injected into the patient that binds to these amyloid plaques, making the plaques show up fluorescent on the screen during the scan of the brain.
While it hasn't been completely proven, a high build-up of plaques in areas of the brain may be causing Alzheimer's.