Dementia is a term used to describe a variety of symptoms that accompany a decline in a person’s mental capabilities. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease, which accounts for up to 80 percent of cases. Dementia can be the result of a stroke, a vitamin deficiency, or health difficulties such as thyroid problems.
Dementia presents a diagnostic challenge to doctors because there is not one single test for dementia. In contrast to most disorders and diseases that are diagnosed with a single blood test or single examination, dementia is diagnosed using the results of the following combination of data:
Even with this collection of information, it can be challenging to diagnose the type of dementia present. In these cases, a referral to a geriatric psychologist or a neurologist may be necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment.
The exact selection of tests used to screen for dementia will depend upon a person’s symptoms and the level of symptomatic severity. Below is a look at the five most common tests used to screen for a dementia diagnosis:
The ADAS-Cog is a comprehensive 11-part test that is appropriate for use with people who display mild symptoms of dementia. The ADAS-Cog usually takes about 30 minutes to administer and is known as the most effective short examinations of language skills and memory.
The MMSE is the most widely used dementia screening tool. The MMSE takes only 5 minutes to administer and screens for deficiencies in reading, orientation, writing and short-term memory.
This type of testing often includes the administration of a battery of tests by a neuropsychologist, or psychological specialist who is trained in the assessment of brain disorders. During the testing process, a patient’s reasoning, comprehension, and ability to recall information will be measured. Neuropsychological testing may take 2 or more hours to complete, and multiple visits may be required to complete the testing process.
These techniques help medical professionals assess changes to the brain in order to rule out the presence of tumors, strokes, and hydrocephalus. Common brain imaging techniques include:
This type of testing involves taking standard X-rays to help rule out lung cancer and other serious health problems which may lead to brain tumors. Radiological testing is often recommended for patients who smoke.
The process to test for dementia can be intimidating to some people. One of the best ways to increase your level of comfort with the testing process is to make a list of the questions and concerns that you have. Below is a short list of questions to ask your doctor before the testing process:
After the testing process is complete, the doctor will gather the data obtained during all of your testing and interpret the test results. This test interpretation will help the doctor confirm the patient’s diagnosis and the particular type of dementia present.
For more information or support, contact Alzheimer’s Australia.