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How Probable Alzheimer's Disease Is Diagnosed

    The National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke and the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association (NINCDS-ADRA) has established guidelines to help diagnose alzheimer's disease. These three diagnostic categories are possible alzheimer's disease, probable alzheimer's disease, and definite alzheimer's disease. To diagnose probable alzheimer's, tests such as the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) are used. Scores on the MMSE must be low enough to indicate dementia. For a patient to be diagnosed as probable alzheimer's, they need to have progressive memory loss, deficits on two or more thinking tasks, and not be in a coma or have delirium. Also, diagnosis of probable alzheimer's would also need to start between age 40 and age 90. Probable alzheimer's would also be a proper diagnosis if no other physical causes could be cointributing to the memory and thinkihg losses, thus the need for a full blood and urine testing protocol. A diagnosis of probable alzheimer's disease is further supported if the patient also has language or motor difficulties,has impaired activities of daily living, and has a family history of alzheimer's disease. The diagnosis of probable alzheimer's is also supported if there are plateaus in the course of the disease. For example, the patient may seem better for a while, but then begins again to decline. Sudden onset of cognitive problems and memory loss is not characteristic of probable alzheimer's disease. CT scans are not useful for alzheimer's diagnosis early on in the disease, but as the disease progresses, CT scans support diagnosis of probable alzheimer's by showing loss of brain cells. Diagnosis of probable alzheimer's is further indicated if the patient has behaviors such as agitation, delusions, hallucinations, depression and apathy. Depression complicates a diagnosis of alzheimer's disease. Depressed people without dementia also have problems with memory and thinking, as do alzheimer patients. However, depressed, non-demented people know their memory loss is related to their depressed feelings, whereas, alzheimer patients don't connect their memory loss to anything and don't usually seek help for their illness.