CT and MRI scans both generate excellent images of the internal structure and condition of the brain. PET scans can be used to monitor brain activity but are not typically used in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
While CT, MRI and PET scans can detect important changes associated with dementia, a diagnosis cannot be based solely on a brain scan. Sometimes brain scans will reveal no significant changes in the brain.
A Computerized Tomography (CT) scanner is a specialized form of X-ray machine. Unlike an ordinary X-ray machine, which sends a single X-ray beam though the body, a CT scanner simultaneously sends several X-ray beams from different angles to produce highly detailed, three dimensional images of the internal structure of the brain.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans use magnetic and radio waves, instead of X-rays, to provide very clear and detailed images of brain or other internal organs. MRI scans provide static three dimensional images of brain structure. Specialized MRI scans can also be used to monitor brain activity in areas of the brain where speech, sensation, memory and similar functions occur.
Doctors often use a range of tests to assess memory, problem solving skills, attention span, coordination, and abstract thinking abilities of a person. There are many different types of neuropsychological tests that can be used in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and these can help doctors determine the type of dementia a person may have, and to measure the disease’s progression over time.
Additionally, these tests can provide a thorough description of the behavioral symptoms so that they can be appropriately managed and monitored. The tests are also used to evaluate the effectiveness of the medications prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Common tests include :
The MMSE is the most commonly used test and takes about 10 minutes to complete. Patients may be tested a number of times over a longer time period (such as every 6 months) to determine the rate of decline in performance over time.
At this time, there is no single test that can accurately diagnose AlzheimerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Disease. Doctors use a variety of assessments and examinations to make a final diagnosis, Including Memory testing, Brain scans and Laboratory & genetic testing.
At each stage of the Alzheimer’s Disease, there are symptoms common to most sufferers. The symptoms commonly seen in each stage are summarized below, however, it is important to realize that there may be some overlap among the stages. In addition, every Alzheimer’s sufferer may not experience all of the symptoms at each stage.
The symptoms for each Alzheimer’s stage Ã¢â‚¬â€œ mild, moderate, and severe Ã¢â‚¬â€œ are:
Confusion and memory loss.
Disorientation; getting lost in familiar surroundings.
Problems with routine tasks.
Changes in personality and judgment.
Difficulty with activities of daily living, such as eating and bathing.
Anxiety, suspiciousness, agitation, and withdrawal.
Difficulty recognizing family and friends.
Please note: If you have several of these symptoms, you should see a qualified physician for a complete examination as soon as possible. It may or may not be Alzheimer’s, but it is always best to seek early treatment.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, which means that symptoms get worse as time progresses. How fast the disease progresses and what pattern the symptoms follow variable from person to person.
The 10 warning signs for Alzheimer’s include :
1. Memory loss: One of the most common early signs of dementia is forgetting recently learned information. While its normal to forget appointments, names or telephone numbers, those with dementia will forget such things more often and also they will not remember them later.
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks: People with dementia often find it difficult to complete mundane, everyday tasks that are so familiar to us that we usually do not think about how to do them. For example, a person with Alzheimer’s may not know the steps for preparing a meal, using a household appliance, driving a car, or participating in their lifelong hobbies.
3. Problems with language: Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer’s often forgets simple words or substitutes unusual words, making his or her speech or writing hard to understand. If a person with Alzheimer’s is unable to find his or her toothbrush, for example, the individual may ask for that thing for my mouth, because they may not remember what a toothbrush is called.
Other research suggests that people with more years of formal education are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Some experts theorize that longer education may produce a denser network of synapses in the brain. Synapses are the nerve-fiber connections in the brain that enable neurons to communicate with one another.
A dense synapse network may create a kind of “neural reserve” that enables people to compensate longer for the early brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s. However, there could be other answers to this. Further research is required.
Early Life Experiences
Unsurprisingly, the environment in which a person lives Ã¢â‚¬â€œ especially early in life – has been implicated as a risk factor for many chronic adult diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
However, a recent study has linked a surprising selection of environmental, socio-economic, and early life experience factors to Alzheimer’s. For example :
An increased number of siblings was associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
A rural residence in childhood, combined with fewer than six years of school, was associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s.
Growing up in the country, rather than in the suburbs, was associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s.
There is growing evidence that many of the well-established risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure, may also be risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
Brain infracts, heart disease and mid-life hypertension increase the risk of AlzheimerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s disease and Vascular dementia.
A large study by researchers in Finland supports this thinking. Among the study population of 1,449 people, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure seemed to be even more strongly linked to the eventual development of Alzheimer’s than did carrying APOE-4 gene, the only known inherited risk-factor for the most common form of the disease.
Those people who carried the APOE-4 gene were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those with no genetic risk. However, if those APOE-4 carriers also had high blood pressure, then they were up to five times as likely to develop the disease.
When high cholesterol was also present, the risk jumped to eight times greater than those without APOE-4. This and a number of other studies around the world are strongly indicating that what’s good for the heart – keeping weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in check – may also be good for the brain.
One of the most alarming and controversial hypotheses about the potential risk factors for Alzheimer’s concerns aluminum, which became a suspect when researchers found traces of this metal in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. This is indeed a grave concern because many people use aluminum pots and pans for cooking, and aluminum canteens for drinking in the world.
Many studies since then have either not been able to confirm this finding or have had questionable results. Aluminum does turn up in higher amounts than normal in some autopsy studies of Alzheimer’s patients, but this certainly doesn’t occur in all. In addition, the aluminum found in some studies may have come from substances used in the laboratory to study the brain tissue after death. Moreover, various other studies have found that groups of people exposed to high levels of aluminum do not have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. On the whole, scientists can say that it is still very debatable whether exposure to aluminum plays any role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Zinc has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease in various studies. Some research reports suggest that too little zinc may be a problem, while other studies suggest that too much zinc is an issue.
There is a growing pool of evidence that suggests that what you eat is very important to your brain. A range of recent studies have reported a link between dietary habits and specific nutritional factors to the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and/or cognitive decline.
In particular, the benefits to the brain of a low-fat diet rich in antioxidants such as vitamins E and C throughout life are becoming clearer.
Here’s what some of the latest research studies have found :
A diet rich in foods containing vitamin E may help protect against Alzheimer’s in some people, according to a study conducted at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago and reported in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Such foods include vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains. Furthermore, the protective effect was NOT seen when study participants took vitamin E supplements, as opposed to getting more of the vitamin from foods. The most significant protective effect was found among those who had the highest dietary intake of vitamin E (which averaged 11.5 International Units per day); their risk of developing Alzheimer’s was 67 percent lower than people who consumed the least amount of vitamin E from food sources.