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DementiaTests Used for Diagnosing Dementia

Posted on August 21, 2009 by DementiaGuide

Tests used for Early Detection of Dementia

Diagnostic tests used for dementia

In some people, the signs and symptoms of dementia are easily recognized; in others, they can be very subtle. A careful and thorough evaluation and series of dementia tests are needed to identify their true cause as well as for early detection. An assessment of dementia symptoms should include a mental status evaluation and a more thorough type of dementia test, performed by a psychologist, called neuropsychologic testing. Routine blood test, urine testing and other dementia tests listed below are an important part of diagnosis.

Overview of tests used for diagnosing Dementia:
  • A health care professionalwill conduct a detailed medical interview to develop a picture of the symptoms.
  • A thorough physical examination is will look for evidence of illness and dysfunction that might shed light on what is causing the symptoms. This evaluation is designed to identify reversible, treatable causes of dementia symptoms.
  • Mental status examination, or neuropsychological testing, pinpoints the nature and measures the severity of the person's mental problems. This can help give a more accurate diagnosis of the problems and, thus, can help in treatment planning.
  • Testing includes noting the individual's appearance, mood, anxiety level, and experience of delusions or hallucinations.
  • Various tests are used which assess cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, orientation to time and place, use of language, and abilities to carry out various tasks and follow instructions.
  • Reasoning, abstract thinking, and problem solving are also evaluated usingtests.
  • Routine blood tests include a complete blood cell (CBC) count, blood chemistry, liver function tests, thyroid function tests, and vitamin B levels (especially folic acid and Vitamin B-12).
  • Other blood tests (for example, syphilis and HIV testing, levels of intoxicating drugs, arterial blood gases [in hypoxia], specific hormone tests, or measurement of heavy metals) are used only when a person is at high risk for specific conditions.
  • Urine tests may be needed to assess blood abnormalities further, to detect certain drugs, or to rule out certain kidney and metabolic disorders.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid testing may be necessary to rule out brain infections, brain tumors, and hydrocephalus with elevated fluid pressure. A sample of the fluid is obtained by a procedure called a lumbar puncture (spinal tap), in which a long needle is inserted between 2 vertebrae of the spine at the lower back.
  • In some cases, imaging studies of the brain may be necessary to detect conditions such as normal pressure hydrocephalus, brain tumor, or infarction or bleeding in the brain.
  • Single-photon emission CT (SPECT) imaging detects blood flow in the brain and is used in some medical centers to distinguish Alzheimer disease from vascular dementia.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG) is not an imaging study but a recording of the electrical activity in different parts of the brain. It is used in people who are having seizures but may help diagnose other disorders as well.

At any point in the evaluation or during any examination andtests, the person being tested may be referred to a specialist in conditions of older people (geriatricians), in brain disorders (neurologists), or in mental disorders (psychiatrists). Thorough examination and completing all tests will help prevent misdiagnosis and ensure accurate treatment.

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Last updated January 9, 2019
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