If you think a loved one is starting to become senile or experience other symptoms of dementia, you may want that person to undergo Alzheimer’s testing. Unfortunately, there is currently no definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease that a person can undergo. The only way doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s with 100% certainty is through physical examination of the brain after the person has passed away. Rather than Alzheimer’s testing, what you want to look for is some type of psychological and behavioral screening coupled with extensive tests to rule out other types of dementia.
One such screening vehicle that is used as an alternative to Alzheimer’s testing is the mini-mental state examination, or MMSE. The MMSE is a thirty question test that samples a variety of areas of cognitive ability, such as memory, problem solving, and orientation. This examination is used to determine if a person’s cognitive ability is at what is considered a normal level.
In addition to such tests, however, the most important screening vehicle is observational behavioral analysis. People who have known the patient for a long time are the best equipped to determine if there has been a recent and significant change in mental state. Until Alzheimer’s testing is perfected, observational data remains the best method of detecting possible dementia.
Once a patient is determined to have dementia, he or she should be tested for other possible medical causes of dementia. Often dementia is caused by other diseases or by a decreased oxygen level in the brain. Symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s are often present in patients with clinical depression or other psychological disorders, as well.
While positive Alzheimer’s testing is not available, testing for these other causes of dementia is at a much more advanced stage. These other medical conditions may be much more treatable than is Alzheimer’s.
Experimental Alzheimer’s Testing
One of the most promising areas in Alzheimer’s testing is brain-scanning technology. While currently not considered to be conclusive, electronic imaging of the brain is being used by doctors and researchers increasingly to look for the kinds of swellings and tangles that are typical of Alzheimer’s disease. PET scanning can determine whether there is reduced activity in certain areas of the brain.
Genetic testing is also being evaluated as a possible method of Alzheimer’s testing. People possessing the AD gene, which produces a particular protein, are much more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. It is important to note, however, that the presence of this gene does not guarantee that Alzheimer’s disease will develop.