Diagnosing Dementia

Dementia is a group of symptoms that includes confusion, short-term memory loss, decreased problem-solving ability, decreased ability to follow directions, inability to perform multi-step activities, and sometimes, personality changes or unusual behavior.

Not all dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease. Dementia also can be caused by reversible conditions such as medication interactions, infections, nutritional deficiency, and hormone disorders, as well as other diseases that are treatable.

All forms of dementia are diagnosed through a series of tests which include a complete medical exam, neurological evaluation, and cognitive testing. If necessary, brain scans such as CT scans or MRI may be ordered. Our neurologists also will review:

Onset of Symptoms. How long have symptoms of dementia been present? What symptoms are causing problems?Understanding the way symptoms began and have progressed can identify important clues.

Medical History and Medication History. Certain medical conditions put a person at higher risk for a particular type of dementia, and certain medications may contribute to cognitive difficulties. Bring a list of medications to your appointment to provide accurate information.

Neurological Exam. A thorough exam can uncover cognitive symptoms that are peculiar to certain forms of dementia, or that are associated with other conditions, such as stroke, brain tumor, or Parkinson’s disease.

Blood tests. Sometimes thyroid abnormalities, metabolic disorders, vitamin deficiencies and hormonal imbalance can create symptoms of dementia that are completely reversible. Blood tests reveal these factors.

MRI or CT Scan. Are cognitive problems the result of a stroke, a brain tumor, or some other physical problem? Brain scans evaluate the brain’s anatomy, including brain size, and the health of the brain’s vascular system.

Cognitive Testing. Cognitive testing evaluates mental status through measuring overall cognitive abilities including language, memory, problem-solving and judgment. Results are compared to benchmarks for age, education and ethnicity to gauge the severity of cognitive decline.

When diagnostic testing is complete, our neurologists can prescribe treatments or therapies to improve symptoms or to stop the progression of disease.

To schedule an appointment, or more information on geriatric neurology services please call 732-923-7550.

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