June 3, 2010
There are many reasons why it’s important to seek a doctor’s diagnosis as soon as possible. There are many causes for dementia symptoms and this may determine how to treat it.
There are conditions and diseases that can mimic Alzheimer’s symptoms. (Click here to see the types of dementia) In addition, treatments currently available for Alzheimer’s – while limited in their effectiveness — have the best chance of working when begun early. Early diagnosis also enables people and their families to take immediate action to prepare for worsening symptoms and make appropriate plans for the future.
While there have been significant advances in diagnostic testing methods for Alzheimer’s — brain scans and spinal taps may detect certain biomarkers of the disease even in its pre-clinical stage — there is currently no single test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease with 100% accuracy. Doctors must use a variety of assessments and laboratory measurements to make what is called a “differential diagnosis” (“Alzheimer’s Diagnostic Tests”). They focus on ruling out all other possible causes for the symptoms. A diagnosis is said to be either possible (not all other causes can be ruled out) or probable (all other causes have been ruled out). Presently, a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is possible only by examining brain tissue after death.