What to Expect During a Clinical Exam for Diagnosing Alzheimer’s

By September 30, 2013Archives

Even though medical technology has come so far in this day and age, Alzheimer’s disease still can’t be diagnosed with one simple test. Instead, doctors actually rely on the results of multiple detailed medical tests, otherwise known as a clinical assessment, in order to diagnose the condition. With so many steps involved, that’s why it’s vital to see a doctor immediately after you suspect Alzheimer’s in a loved one.

The doctor generally has three goals to meet in a clinical assessment for Alzheimer’s disease. Those are to document the evidence of cognitive impairment, make sure there are no other common causes for the impaired thinking and to determine if there are other changes consistent with Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia.

So, what happens during one of these clinical assessments? When a doctor sees a patient who is complaining about memory problems or other symptoms of dementia, he or she will usually gather the following information and/or perform these tests:


A Review of Current Issues

The doctor will ask a lot of questions about memory problems or other symptoms that are concerning. He will also ask about other signs or symptoms that could possibly be related to dementia. In addition, he will ask questions that help to determine if depression, anxiety or other mental health issues are present.


A Medical History

The doctor will go over all past illnesses and treatments your loved one has experienced. He may also ask about family medical history, since dementia often runs in families. He will ask about current medications, health habits and social status.


Physical Exam

Doctors will always take vital signs, listen carefully to the heart and lungs and inspect the eyes.


Lab Work

General lab tests performed during the clinical assessment are a complete blood count, urine test, liver function test, blood glucose levels and other various tests.


Cognitive Screening Test

These tests are actually very brief, most lasting from 5 to 15 minutes. The screening tests involve asking your loved one a series of questions, which are scored. They are meant to look for certain signs that signal problems with thinking skills. They usually involve memory, speaking ability, problem-solving skills, ability to follow directions and other areas that make up cognition.

While there are many other tests that will need to be completed in order to confirm a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, these are the first steps toward confirming the condition’s presence.


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