How Do Doctors Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive impairments that seriously interfere with daily life. It affects millions of Americans, most of whom are age 65 and older. The disease usually starts slowly and gets worse over time, affecting a person’s ability to think, remember, and communicate. Early diagnosis can have a major impact on quality of life and how effective treatment will be, so it’s crucial to be aware of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and know when to have a doctor examine you or your loved one. If you want to learn more, keep reading to find out how doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

How do doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s disease?

Let’s start by answering the question, what is Alzheimer’s? In Alzheimer’s disease, abnormal proteins called beta-amyloid and tau accumulate in the brain, forming plaques and tangles that disrupt the normal workings of the brain. It’s not clear how these proteins cause the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but they may interfere with the cells in the brain that store memories. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the brain shrinks, and the person may become increasingly confused, disoriented, and inactive. Eventually, the person may need total care. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are treatments available that can help improve symptoms for a while.

There are a few different tests that doctors can use to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, as there is no one specific test that can confirm a patient has the condition. One common test that is used diagnostically is a cognitive function test, which measures the person’s memory, thinking skills, and ability to solve problems. Another common test is an MRI scan or CT scan, which can help rule out other possible causes of the person’s symptoms. Doctors may also order a spinal tap to check for abnormalities in the patient’s spinal fluid.

A doctor will also likely ask about the patient’s medical history, including any symptoms they may be experiencing and when they started to occur. Doctors will be particularly interested in finding out about the patient’s family history, as there is a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease if someone has a family member who has also been diagnosed with the condition.

What can you do to support a loved one with Alzheimer’s?

Home modifications can be extremely beneficial for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. There are a number of home modifications that can be made, and each one can be tailored to the specific needs of the patient. Some common home modifications that can be made for patients with Alzheimer’s disease include adding safety features to the home, such as handrails in the bathroom and bedroom, and non-skid flooring in the kitchen and bathroom. In addition, you should remove any potential hazards from the home, such as cords and wires that could be a tripping hazard.

Providing other types of support to loved ones with Alzheimer’s can be meaningful as well. Alzheimer’s disease can be an isolating condition, so spend time with your loved ones and talk to them about their day. Even if they can’t remember what happened, they will still appreciate the conversation. You can also assist them so they can stay active and engaged in life. Encourage them to participate in activities they enjoy, even if they are no longer able to do them on their own. You can also help them keep a routine, which can maintain their sense of stability.

There is no one definitive cause of Alzheimer’s disease, but it is believed that a combination of environmental and lifestyle factors, genetics, and age can contribute to developing the disease. It can be a tricky condition to diagnose, which is why it’s useful to be aware of what early symptoms to look out for so you can see a doctor if necessary. If you have a loved one that is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, there’s a lot you can do to help. Home modifications like installing grab bars and widening doorways are a good idea, but it can also make a difference just to be there for them. Follow the tips in this article and you’ll be better prepared to handle it if you notice symptoms of dementia in yourself or a loved one.

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