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Possible Early Dementia (cont.)

Exams and Tests

Pinpointing the cause of memory loss is a challenge to your health care provider. Alzheimer's disease and many other causes of dementia cannot be diagnosed with certainty by lab tests or brain scans. Your health care provider will ask you many questions about your symptoms and how they started, your other medical problems, your family’s medical problems, your medications, your habits and lifestyle, and your work and travel history.

The medical interview is followed by a careful physical examination and, possibly, lab tests and scans. Cognitive processes are tested by how well you answer certain questions and follow simple directions. Part of the process of making the diagnosis is ruling out conditions that do not fit the facts. At any time in this process, your health care provider may refer you to a specialist in diseases of elderly persons (gerontologist) or in diseases of the brain (neurologist or psychiatrist).

Lab tests

No specific laboratory test confirms the diagnosis of MCI. Most tests are done to rule out reversible conditions such as thyroid disorders, chemical imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, and infections.

Imaging studies

CT scan and MRI are used to "see" the brain and surrounding organs. Like lab tests, these brain scans do not give a definitive diagnosis of MCI. They may show abnormalities in the brain that are consistent with Alzheimer's-like dementia. They also are used to rule out potentially reversible causes of MCI.

Neuropsychological testing

Neuropsychological testing is the most accurate method of pinpointing and measuring a person’s cognitive problems and strengths. Neuropsychological testing is very useful in diagnosing MCI.

  • The testing involves answering questions and performing tasks that have been carefully designed for this purpose. It is carried out by a psychologist.
  • It addresses the individual’s appearance, mood, anxiety level, and experience of delusions or hallucinations.
  • It assesses cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, orientation to time and place, use of language, and abilities to carry out various tasks and follow instructions.
  • Reasoning, abstract thinking, and problem solving also are tested.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/1/2015
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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Possible Early Dementia:

Possible Early Dementia - Symptoms

If you or a loved one may be suffering from early dementia, what are the symptoms?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Dementia: Overview of Pharmacotherapy »

Perhaps the most important challenge in treating dementia is identifying cases (albeit uncommon) of reversible dementia such as chronic drug intoxication, vitamin deficiencies (B-12 and folate), subdural hematoma(s), major depression (causing forgetfulness), normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), and hypothyroidism.

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