The diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease

February 2017

A precise diagnosis


A diagnosis is usually made by a multidisciplinary team.

There are now diagnostic criteria (DSM-IV criteria) for use in the UK, which are:

The development of multiple cognitive defects manifested by both:
  • Memory impairment: impaired ability to learn new information as well as recall previously learned information
  • One or more of the following cognitive disturbances:

-Language disturbance
-Apraxia (inability to carry out motor activities despite intact motor function)
-Agnosia (failure to recognise or identify objects despite intact sensory function)
-Disturbance of planning, organising, sequencing, abstracting and other higher functioning


Other features:

-There is impairment in social or occupational functioning
-There is gradual onset and continuing decline
-There are no neurological or medical or drug-induced conditions that could cause the same symptoms.
-There is no acute confusion
-There is no neuropsychiatric disorder (e.g.depression, schizophrenia)



Where to go if you suspect Alzheimer's disease


If you suspect Alzheimer's disease, the first port of call would be your general practitioner (GP).


The GP may then decide to refer you to a specialist.

An under-diagnosed disease


There is usually a delay between the manifestation of first symptoms and diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. This is probably due to the insidious nature of presentation and also due to the other conditions which mimic the disease. By diagnosis, brain degeneration is usually well on its way and dementia is diagnosed in 33% of patients at a later stage.

Therefore, it would be most beneficial for patients to have an early diagnosis so that treatment and lifestyle changes can be considered as early as possible.

According to some research, if we were able to delay the onset of the disease by 5 years, the frequency would reduce by 50%.



For more information on the diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease, please visit the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) website for UK guidelines:
http://www.nice.org.uk

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