Early and accurate diagnosis dementia is critical for the benefit of patients and families. Therapies that may slow the disorder can begin sooner and people have more time to plan for the future.
Unfortunately, an autopsy is the only certain way to confirm the disorders that cause dementia. So screening for dementia involves a number of tests to first rule out conditions that cause symptoms similar to dementia, such as depression, vitamin B deficiencies and normal pressure hydrocephalus, all of which are treatable. After excluding those possibilities, doctors employ a number of tests that can confirm dementia with a high degree of accuracy.
Tests for Dementia
Doctors utilize the results of a variety of tests to confirm a diagnosis of dementia. Screening is done is steps taken in order. The doctor begins with a medical history reviewing the patient’s symptoms and general condition, emotional state and family history. Next, a physical examination can help identify signs of dementia and may reveal other illnesses. A neurological evaluation examines balance, coordination, reflexes, strength and sensory function, and may identify other, treatable conditions.
Based on the results of these exams, a doctor may order more specific testing, that can include:
- Brain scans – computed tomography (CT scan) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to identify strokes, degeneration of brain tissue, fluid on the brain and other conditions
- Electroencephalograms, or EEGs, measure electrical activity in the brain and may indicate cognitive dysfunction
- Lab tests for dementia may include blood glucose tests, cerebral spinal fluid analysis, toxicity screen for drugs and alcohol, hormone tests and genetic tests
- Psychiatric evaluations can reveal depression and other psychological problems that cause symptoms of dementia