Tests your doctor may conduct or order include:
- “Mental status” tests (also called cognitive tests or neuropsychological tests) to measure or categorize any memory loss. To begin with, your doctor may use a brief test called the “Mini-Cog.” During this test, your doctor will say three words, then ask you to remember them in a few minutes. In addition, he will ask you to draw a clock face.
- Blood or urine tests to check for certain conditions associated with memory loss (for example thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies)
- Brain imaging, typically an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or a CT (Computed Tomography) scan. MRIs and CT scans (also called CAT scans) are structural imaging tests. These scans are used to look at the volume and shape of the brain, and also to check for signs of stroke, tumors or head injuries that might cause memory problems.
- Spinal fluid testing can be used to measure levels of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Because it is invasive, your doctor may not order this test.
- Genetic testing - one genetic variation, APOE4, is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia after age 65, and testing for this variation may be used to help confirm a diagnosis. Some people who have the APOE4 genetic variation never develop Alzheimer’s, though, and some people who do not have the variation do develop the disease. The inconclusive nature of the APOE test, along with concerns about confidentiality, legal and psychological issues, makes many doctors reluctant to order this test. Researchers continue to search for other variations, or combinations of variations, that may increase the risk of late-life dementia.
Researchers are working to identify “biomarkers” for Alzheimer’s and related diseases. Biomarkers are characteristics that indicate the presence of a disease. Potential candidates are substances in blood, urine, skin tissue, eye tissue, and loss of sense of smell.
Tangled Neuron Posts:
A Quick and Easy Biomarker for Alzheimer’s?
Detecting Alzheimer’s and Other Disorders Before Symptoms Appear: the FDDNP-PET Scan
Alzheimer's Risk Factors, Genetics, Family History and Prevention
Dr. Rudolph Tanzi's Talk on Alzheimer's Genetics and Treatments
SORL1: New Alzheimer's Gene
The APOE Gene, Alzheimer's and Dementia
The MTHFR gene and Alzheimer's
Can loss of sense of smell predict Alzheimer's?
The Eye Exam Every Dementia Patient Should Have?
The MRI Every dementia Patient Should Get?
Alzheimer Research Forum’s Neuropsychological Testing Information
Alzheimer’s Association Steps to Diagnosis Page (including discussion of MMSE scores)
Summary of a study about PET scans for evaluation of dementia
Summary of a study of PET scans using PIB for imaging amyloid deposits in the brain
Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Genetic (Inherited) Factors Page
The American Geriatrics Society Position Statement on Genetic Testing for Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
New York Times article about testing for the APOE4 genetic variation
Books Related to Memory Loss Testing: