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Diagnosis

Diagnosis

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Doctors may work with specialists to diagnose Alzheimer’s. They include neurologists, neuropsychologists, geriatricians, and geriatric psychiatrists.

The group of doctors will study a person who might have Alzheimer's disease. They will do tests to see how their brain is working.
  • Review the person’s medical history. This includes any tests done by a psychiatrist. They also review family history.
  • Talk to family members. This is to find out if the person has been thinking or acting differently.
  • Do tests to check how the brain is working.
  • Do a physical exam.
  • Do blood tests and brain imaging, like an MRI.
Researchers are working on better ways to find out if a person has Alzheimer’s. This includes looking for biomarkers. Biomarkers can show if someone is at risk for a disease or has a disease.

Researchers are also studying if certain tests can show which genes cause Alzheimer’s. They are also working on better ways to see inside the brain. This is done through imaging (like an MRI).

The only way to know for sure if someone has Alzheimer’s is to study the brain after he or she dies. The brain must be tested for certain things. This can include looking for plaques and tangles. For now, these brain tests cannot be done while a person is alive.

Image of imaging equipment

Doctors often work with specialists to help diagnose Alzheimer’s. These specialists include neurologists, neuropsychologists, geriatricians, and geriatric psychiatrists.

When making a diagnosis, doctors will:
  • Review the patient’s medical and family history. This includes any psychiatric evaluations.
  • Interview family members to shed light on changes in thinking and behavior.
  • Test brain function.
  • Perform physical exams.
  • Do blood tests.
  • Order brain imaging tests, such as a CT scan

Currently, there is no one definitive test for Alzheimer's disease. A physician will rely on the tests above, as well as input from family members, in order to diagnose someone with Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers are working on ways to improve diagnosis, including using biomarkers and genetic testing as well as better brain imaging.
Image of imaging equipment

Doctors often consult with specialists including neurologists, neuropsychologists, geriatricians, and geriatric psychiatrists to help diagnose Alzheimer’s. There is no single test to diagnose patients.

Physicians will observe a patient who is thought to have Alzheimer's and perform a series of tests to make a diagnosis. Typically, the team of doctors will:
  • Review the patient’s medical and family history, including any psychiatric evaluations
  • Interview family members to determine if the patient has experienced any cognitive or behavioral changes
  • Complete cognitive tests
  • Perform physical exams
  • Order blood tests and brain imaging to rule out other possible causes of symptoms
Researchers are currently working on innovative ways to improve diagnosis, including the use of biomarkers and improved genetic testing, as well as better brain imaging.
NEXT: After diagnosis

References: 1. Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures 2019 2.Diagnosing Alzheimer's. Australian Alzheimer's Research Foundation. https://alzheimers.com.au/about-alzheimers/diagnosing-alzheimers/. Accessed September 23, 2019.