Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease: All The Guidelines You Need
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that develops slowly over a period of time. Alzheimer’s can lead to the onset of dementia in about 70% of patients. The early signs of Alzheimer’s disease include short term memory loss i.e. difficulty in recalling recent events. Critical symptoms such as loss of language, decreased motivation, confusion, disorientation, decreased self-care and behavioral problems arise with an advancement of the disease.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease at the moment; however, better management of the disease can be worked out through early detection. Following is a complete guideline on how you can help your loved ones in detecting early signs and symptoms of this disease and the kind of tests that are required in the process.
Early Symptoms of Dementia in Alzheimer
At the beginning, a person starts losing his/her ability to remember even some of the most recent events, problem solving skills start to deteriorate, the patient faces difficulty in planning everyday tasks, and it becomes difficult to concentrate properly on work. Spatial difficulties may also arise, making it difficult to focus on distances especially while driving a car. The risk of becoming lost rises substantially, and the ability to think rationally becomes impaired as well. Loss of words from a person’s regular vocabulary becomes a bit evident to those who spend a significant amount of time with the patient.
Because of all these limitations, sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease become withdrawn from family and friends, and also avoid going to social events in order to avoid making a fool of themselves. This social isolation in turn leads to depression, which overtakes the personality of a person and results in mood swings that become increasingly recurrent. If someone is experiencing these symptoms, then it is important to get a detailed diagnosis from a medical professional.
Diagnosing the Disease
The doctor will thoroughly analyze the condition of the patient and will evaluate dementia symptoms first to check if the patient has lost cognitive skills and the ability to remember things. He will evaluate personality changes and also assess the level of difficulty the patient is facing in performing daily tasks.
The doctor will then recommend a few memory tests including a brain imaging evaluation in order to rule out other diseases with similar symptoms such as Parkinson’s disease, strokes, acute anxiety, and depression.
Evaluating Cognitive Skills and Memory Difficulties
In order to evaluate symptoms, the doctor will perform a few tests to evaluate cognitive skills, problem solving skills, planning skills, and memory. Cognitive skills and mental status is evaluated through memory tests. A score card is used to assess the degree of impairment in cognitive skills.
Neuropsychologists are trained to evaluate the mental status and health of a person’s brain. Through extensive process of assessment, different tests are performed to assess the status of dementia and the ability of a person to perform daily tasks, including critical tasks such as managing finances or driving. The doctor may also conduct interviews of the patient’s caretakers, family, and friends, as the history of the patient’s life is evaluated through these interviews in which a person’s change of personality and loss of cognitive and memory skills over a period of time are assessed.
By performing these tests and through physical examination of the patient, the doctor gathers sufficient information to make an informed diagnosis. Some blood tests are also recommended to evaluate if memory loss symptoms are caused because of easily manageable conditions such as an acute deficiency of vitamin B-12 or dysfunctional thyroid hormone.
As Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease, it leads to degeneration of the brain cells causing the size of the brain to shrink. This can be evaluated through different imaging tests performed on the brain such as the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), CT scans, and PET scans. The most advanced method of brain imaging is the PET scan, whereby radioactive substances are used to trace the defects in the brain. All of these tests are also helpful in ruling out other conditions like brain tumors and other such degenerative diseases.
Early Diagnosis is Important
Early diagnosis of any disease is important because it allows for better management of the symptoms. There is no cure of Alzheimer disease, but early detection of its symptoms can help in devising an effective management plan with the patient’s family.
Considering the severity of dementia, everyday tasks such as home care settings, community services, and handling financial tasks of the patient can be planned in due time to avoid putting the patient through undue distress. Doctors also recommend certain drugs to slow down the degenerative process, which can prove to be very helpful in the long run. Non-drug interventions to improve cognitive skills may also be recommended during the course of the treatment.
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