Arriving At The Diagnosis When The Disease Is Alzheimer

There is no one test that definitively identifies the disease of Alzheimer’s within an individual. Scientists are however, doing all they can to move closer to the day when they will be able to say that they have discovered a way to give a clear, concise and quick diagnosis for a disease that can be devastating not only to hear the words “You have Alzheimer’s”, but to hear that there is no cure for the disease, no relief for the one who suffers or the ones who must watch the suffering.

The disease when diagnosed by a qualified doctor is usually 90% accurate because to make the diagnosis doctors have to rule out all other diseases or causes for the presenting symptoms.

The diagnosis is made by using neuropsychological testing and physical, mental and behavioral evaluations. The person making the diagnosis is trained and educated to detect the nature and level of an individual’s physical, emotional and behavioral impairment.

Approximately 5% of individuals with Alzheimer’s were diagnosed with early stage of the disease because at this point in the disease the symptoms are not obvious. In the early stage the individual is typically younger than age 65.

Imaging procedures are commonly used in the diagnosis of the disease because they can detect subtle changes of the structure and size of the brain. These changes are characteristic of the disease.

Alzheimer’s is difficult to diagnose because other diseases or conditions must first be ruled out. Memory screenings must not be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s, however imaging technologies have advanced to the point that they are becoming more precise at diagnosing the disease.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to detect early physical brain signs of the disease even before mental impairment shows up and becomes obvious to those evaluating the patient.

The Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) is a commonly used mental status exam used by doctors who suspect that they may have a patient with Alzheimer’s disease.

The diagnosis may be assisted by the patient or loved one by supplying an accurate list of suspected symptoms along with the onset, duration and intensity of the symptoms.

Structural brain damage is a crucial element of the diagnosis. Unfortunately a brain segment biopsy is very painful and risky to be done on a live patient. There are occasions when this test is performed to confirm the diagnosis after the patient has died.

Often in the very early stages of the disease a person will say that they have senility, or that “old age is setting in”. The truth is that Alzheimer’s is not a normal state of aging. It is a disease that although it occurs more often in those who are older than 80 years of age the typical onset of early Alzheimer’s is age 65, which at today’s standards is not all that old. Rarely someone under 65 will develop early stage Alzheimer’s.

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