Many of us would remember the 40th President of the United States, late Ronald Reagan, who died of Alzheimer’s disease. There are about 6 million Americans who are afflicted with this disease and a lot more all over the world. The neurodegenerative disease, which was first diagnosed in Auguste Deter Well, affects the brain gradually at the early stages before getting rapid in the later stages.

Diagnosing Alzheimers Disease

The disease which affects one’s cognitive and intellectual behavior can be diagnosed by taking the family history of the individual, physical medical examinations, and behavioral observation. Additional tests can also be conducted using medical imaging. Further diagnosis can be carried out with Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which uses magnetic radio waves and a computer to explore the brain and reveal any abnormalities and Computed tomography (CT) which takes shots of the body from different angles using X-rays to show cerebral damage common in late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Also, Positron emission tomography scan (PET) shows the tau formation and amyloid aggregation characteristic to the neurodegenerative disorder of such magnitude and also Single-photo emission computed tomography (SPECT). Patients are subjected to tests with these machines to exclude other brain diseases or dementia, mainly medically imaging assists in eliminating the other possible diagnosis as the physician works on confirming if the patient actually has Alzheimer’s disease.

When an individual begins to experience a sudden state of forgetfulness, and the memory does not quite serve the person as it typically does, one could try to get assessed to put to bed any worries. Even if it is Alzheimer’s disease, finding out that one has the condition early on, before the degeneration gets rapid, has a much better prognosis. There are lots of standard and easy to use criteria developed for the proper and adequate diagnosis of the disease in patients.

The criteria used in testing by the Alzheimer’s association requires that the individual has a cognitive impairment and as well as confirming any case of dementia with neuropsychological testing. To fully confirm the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, the brain tissue of the person is required to for examination in order to be fully certain and definite. Since, brain biopsy is not advisable, using the diagnostic criteria have proven to be good and consistent when the disease is eventually confirmed using histological confirmation, post-mortem. There are about eight cognitive skills that are usually affected, as listed by the American Psychiatric Association. Memory is one of them; the others are attention, language, perceptual skills, orientation, constructive abilities, functional abilities, solving problems and orientation. The criteria are documented in the book the American Psychiatric Association published on NINCDS-ADRDA Alzheimer’s criteria listed in the book, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR).

Screening Test for Alzheimer’s disease

The neuropsychological screening test scan is very useful in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. People are given memory tasks, testing how well they can copy paintings, recollect words, and perform calculations and their reading ability. An example of such screening is the Mini-mental state examination also known as MMSE. It is used in identifying the cognitive impairments that are necessary for use in the diagnosis, such as the attention span of the individual, the memory capabilities, the problem-solving skills and counting skills. All these are needed to identify the part of the brain that may have been affected in some way. But for confirmation of the disease, family members would be questioned to give information about the routine of the individual concerned. If they have a caregiver, they are also interviewed to provide insight into the behavior and abilities of the person most especially questions concerning the mental health of the person. The role of the caregiver is significant because the healthcare professionals are trained to pick out the signs of Alzheimer’s disease in people which the family members may not have noticed due to their activities or emotional bias. Often, the people involved have no idea of what they are going through or the changes happening to them. Initially, that could be a problem as they may be asking people about an issue they have discussed over and over again. That is usually frustrating for people close and surrounding them as they do not understand what they are going through. But, as soon as one keeps in mind that older people are likely to have not just memory loss but also degenerative mental inadequacies, then one can be a bit lenient and lean towards the angle of getting them to the hospital to assess their state of mental and physical health.


A wide array of medical examinations is very helpful in eliminating differential diagnosis. Common ones like blood tests, which can pinpoint the causes of dementia much more than Alzheimer’s disease or confirm if the person is anemic as this may point towards delirium. Thyroid function tests (TFT) helps in ruling out syphilis. Kidney function test assists in eliminating the metabolic problem, measuring electrolyte levels for diabetes diagnosis.

Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease

There are no medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, but the symptoms of the patient can be managed using drugs. Donepezil, Galantamine, and Rivastigmine work by helping the brain function improve remarkably especially in the early stages of diagnosing the disease. Other medications such as Memantine can be prescribed by Doctors for patients to use together with the ones mentioned above, as it helps in managing the level of glutamate usage and it protects individuals with moderate to severe stages of the disease from deteriorating too fast, with very little or no side effects compared to other medications.

Alzheimer’s disease is not to be confused with regular reduced capabilities and abilities that are found in elderly adults. One should pay close attention to them, to notice tasks that they are generally accustomed to carrying out with ease but they start finding them difficult, requiring assistance in doing them. If this starts occurring and it is accompanied by persistent memory loss, one should contact a Doctor and get them assessed. There are rare cases of young adults ending up with Alzheimer’s disease, but there are other mental illnesses that may have resulted from other causes, if one notices a drastic change in behavior and character of someone close, one should suggest visiting the hospital and getting their health monitored. It may just be rest that is needed, but if it has something to do with the brain, especially Alzheimer’s disease, it will be beneficial for it to be caught on time by the specialists and managed properly, because any form of the disease is better dealt with at their early stages.



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