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Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed after other conditions are ruled out. Your doctor will use a variety of tests to do this.
It usually is helpful to bring a family member or someone else you trust to the appointment. A family member may be able to provide the best information about how your day-to-day functioning, memory, and personality have changed.
By themselves, the tests done for Alzheimer's can't show for sure whether you have it.
The doctor will ask questions about your past health and do a physical exam to help find out if a physical problem may be causing your symptoms. Sometimes another problem can cause the same symptoms as Alzheimer's.
You will also have a functional status exam and a mental health assessment. During these exams, the doctor may ask you to do some simple things that test your memory and other mental skills. Your doctor may also check how well you can do daily tasks.
Lab tests may be done to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. These causes may include levels of certain minerals or chemicals in the blood, liver disease, abnormal thyroid levels, or nutritional problems, such as folate or vitamin B12 deficiencies. Treatment for these conditions may slow or reverse mental decline.
Blood tests that may be done include:
Complete blood count (CBC).
Liver function tests.
Folate (folic acid) test.
Vitamin B12 concentration.
Blood glucose and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, creatinine, glucose, calcium) levels.
Thyroid function tests.
HIV test, if you have risk factors for HIV or the medical history suggests it
Imaging and other tests
Other tests include:
Brain imaging tests, such as a CT head scan or an MRI of the head.
A lumbar puncture to test for certain proteins in the spinal fluid.
An electroencephalogram, or EEG.
Brain imaging studies. These include positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission tomography (SPECT).
In some cases, examining the brain after death is done if the family wants to confirm that the person had Alzheimer's disease.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.