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Different Dementia Tests Analyze Different Aspects of Dementia

Posted on January 7, 2009 by DementiaGuide

An Overview of Different Dementia Tests

When a friend or family member starts to show symptoms of dementia, the next step is to arrange a doctor's visitto get an expert opinion. Doctors have a variety of dementia tests they use to analyze different aspects of the condition, most of which supplement a physical exam and medical history. It can be helpful to inform yourself about some of these before heading into a doctor's office.

Cognitive and Neuropsychological Tests

Cognitive and neuropsychologcal dementia tests employ a number of questions and techniques to test a person's orientation, memory, attention, and problem solving skills. While these types of tests are effective in determining whether or not a person hasa form of dementia, they cannot ascertain the root cause or prognosis. Simply put, these tests are a first step in finding out what is going on. One common test used is the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE).

Brain Imaging

Doctors may usebrain scan dementia tests to determine the presence of tumors, strokes, or other problems typically associated with dementia. A brain scan can also reveal cortical atrophy, or the degeneration of the brain's outer layer, which is very common among dementia patients. Additionally, brain scans can be used to check for changes in the brain's function and structure that point to Alzheimer's disease. There are various brain imaging tests available, but the most common variations are computed tomography (CAT or CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests. You can ask your doctor to explain which type of test he or she is using and why.

Lab Tests

Laboratory tests are used to diagnose dementia in conjunction with ruling out other conditions that produce similar symptoms. For example, the doctor might order a glucose test to check blood sugar levels or a thyroid hormone test to check for an underactive thyroid. These tests will usually only be ordered if the doctor feels he or she needs to improve the accuracy of a dementia diagnosis.

Is There a Preemptive Dementia Test

Pre-symptomatic dementia tests do not exist at the moment, as it is impossible to diagnose dementia before symptoms begin. However, scientists are developing a series of cognitive tests to predict the likelihood that dementia will develop in a given individual. It is also possible certain brain scans or memory tests could be used as early indicators of possible dementia. If your family has a history of dementia, it may be worth it to ask your doctor about the possibility of participating in one of these studies.

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Last updated January 15, 2019
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