Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnostic Tests and Tools

August 11, 2007 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

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By Linda J Bruton

Alzheimer’s disease gets its name from Alois Alzheimerwho was born in Southern Germany in 1864. Dr Alzheimer first described the disease in 1906 after performing an autopsy on the brain of one of his patients. Dr. Alzheimer discovered that the brain had virtually turned to a “sticky goop” with abnormal clumps and tangled bundles of fibers.

Today, these plaques and tangles in the brain are considered signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Alzheimer had been treating the patient for a mental disorder that he described as “madness” but realized that the brain of the patient had literally been destroyed.

One hundred years later, researchers and medical science have not determined a definitive cause for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder that destroys a person’s memory and eventually hampers the person’s ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate or carry out basic daily activities.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Dementia describes a group of conditions that gradually destroy brain cells and lead to a progressive decline in mental function.

People within the targeted age group who begin to feel that something may be wrong with their memory should immediately see their family doctor. There are diagnostic test and tools that Neurologist can use to determine whether or not a person has Alzheimer’s disease.

If the doctor determines that there is some dementia, a referral to a specialist in neurology or a geriatric specialist may be provided. Since there are several types of dementia, a specialist may be needed to eliminate the other types of dementia to make a determination for Alzheimer’s.

Some of the diagnosis tests given to patients to diagnose Alzheimer’s include:

1) A clock drawing test. – The patient is asked to draw a clock and to put the numbers in their appropriate locations. The patient is then instructed to draw specific hours on the clock, i.e. 3:00 or 11:15.

2) Mini-Mental State Examination – The MMSE is a brief test that measures the cognitive status in adults. Part of the tests asks the patient a series of questions that are considered basic information concerning their surroundings. For example: the patient may be asked to name three household items that are in the room. After the patient responds, the questions are continued.

Then the reviewer may asks the patient again to name the original 3 household item. Sometimes the patient is asked to count backwards. The person is asked to name the three objects again.. The test is intended to screen for cognitive impairment and estimate the severity of their mental impairment.

3) Functional Assessment Staging Test (FAST) – involves a checklist of functions required for daily living. The test evaluates the changes in functional performance.

The person providing the test has a checklist of required activities and will “Check “Yes” if a characteristic is present. If problems are due to other causes apart from dementia (i.e., arthritis, paralysis or other disabilities, this will be noted) The reviewer will check “No” and note these other causes next to the characteristic.

The information is evaluated and the factors weighed. The information learned from these tests helps determine whether a person has Alzheimer’s disease with an accuracy rate of about 90 percent.

It is important for older individuals to get tested when signs of dementia are present. Early testing can identify the problem and may eliminate Alzheimer’s as the cause of lapses of memory. Some prescription medications may cause similar symptoms.

For more information on alzheimers statistics, treatment, caregiving, and support resources, please visit for helpful tips. Be sure to read the article on alzheimers disease early symptom detection.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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