Tests for Dementia
Examples of tests for dementia include the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and other tests that measure memory, math skills, and other abilities related to mental functioning. Other tests for dementia can include CT scans, MRIs, and other types of brain scans. Doctors may use psychiatric evaluations and lab tests (such as a complete blood count) to rule out other conditions that may cause symptoms similar to those seen with dementia. In most cases, doctors cannot test for dementia before the onset of symptoms.
Doctors employ a number of strategies to diagnose dementia. These strategies may include asking a number of questions, performing a physical exam, and recommending certain tests. Healthcare providers use some of these tests to determine if the person has dementia. They may use other tests to rule out any treatable conditions for dementia, such as normal pressure hydrocephalus, a chronic subdural hematoma, or vitamin B12 deficiency.
The specific tests the healthcare provider recommends will be based on a number of factors, including what he or she found during the physical exam and what possible symptoms of dementia the person is experiencing. Tests for dementia may include:
- Cognitive and neuropsychological dementia tests
- Brain scans
- Laboratory tests
- Psychiatric evaluation
- Pre-symptomatic testing.
Doctors use tests that measure memory, language skills, math skills, and other abilities related to mental functioning to help them diagnose a patient's condition accurately. For example, people with Alzheimer's disease often show changes in so-called executive functions such as problem-solving, memory, and the ability to perform once-automatic tasks.
Doctors often use a test called the Mini-Mental® State Examination (MMSE™) to assess cognitive skills in people with suspected dementia. This test examines:
- The ability to name objects, follow verbal and written commands, write a sentence spontaneously, and copy a complex shape.
Doctors also use a variety of other tests and rating scales to identify specific types of cognitive problems and abilities.