Alzheimer's disease, a form of dementia, primarily affects older people. Although there is no cure, there are treatments to help you manage the condition so that you can live a full life for as long as possible. The key to proper treatment, though, is an accurate diagnosis. Many other conditions, some curable, can mimic Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. The following guide will better help you understand the diagnostic process.
A full medical history is necessary, along with any medications or treatments you are undergoing for other conditions. This allows your doctor to rule out other medical causes for your memory issues. Everything from a heart condition to certain medications can mimic some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's. Sometimes you can alleviate the symptoms by changing the treatment plan or medications for these other conditions.
Assessment of overall health
Undiagnosed health conditions can also lead to memory issues. For example, poor lung function means that your body—including the brain—is not receiving the oxygen it needs to function properly. Your doctor will need to rule out these secondary causes before they can accurately diagnose Alzheimer's.
In the days or weeks leading up to your appointment, compile a symptom journal. It's a good idea to have your spouse or a family member help you with this. Record periods of forgetfulness, confusion and disorientation, and mood swings. If you experience any difficulty talking or writing out your thoughts, make a note in your journal. It is also normal to feel frustration or anxiety during the onset of Alzheimer's, especially if a normal task is suddenly difficult. Recording all instances of the above situations can help your doctor provide an accurate diagnosis as well as determine how far the dementia has progressed.
Blood and urine tests are typically performed, but these are primarily to rule out other conditions with similar side effects, such as thyroid disease or diabetes. Your doctor may also recommend genetic testing. There are certain genes that are considered higher risk for Alzheimer's. If you carry one of these genes, your doctor can make an accurate diagnosis much more quickly.
Once all other possible causes are ruled out, a neurological exam will take place. The purpose of this test is to verify that Parkinson's or strokes haven't caused memory loss. Your doctor may also order a brain scan, which will further help them verify that Alzheimer's is the cause.
While these tests and procedures may seem time consuming and stressful, an accurate diagnosis is a must to ensure proper treatment. For further questions, contact a bran-condition treatment center such as Allegheny Brain And Spine Surgeons near you.