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Alzheimer’s Testing and Diagnosis

Back To Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

It can be hard to recognize or admit to possible signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Often, it’s family or friends who notice signs first. If you or your loved one is experiencing signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, it’s important to make an appointment to see a doctor as soon as possible.

The  dementia specialists at Banner Health’s three centers of excellence for memory disorders take an integrative approach in testing and diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, as well as monitoring the disease’s progression. An early Alzheimer’s diagnosis can provide you or your loved one with more opportunities for treatment and care, greater access to clinical trials and a better chance at preserving cognitive function. Our compassionate and caring staff are here to support you during your health care journey and provide you with the best chance at a quality life.

How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?

It can be hard to recognize or admit to possible signs of Alzheimer’s. Often, it’s family or friends who notice signs first. If you or your loved one are experiencing dementia-like symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and intervention improve treatment options and quality of life.

There is no single, definitive test to diagnose Alzheimer's disease. At Banner Health, our experienced team of neurologists, neuropsychologists, geriatricians, geriatric psychiatrists and researchers use a combination of methods to make an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and care plan. This includes physical and neurological exams, diagnostic tests and brain imaging

Testing for Alzheimer’s

Our comprehensive scale of testing and diagnostic tools will help identify whether the brain’s biomarkers can detect the presence of plaques and tangles, as well as measure amyloid and tau proteins in plasma and cerebral spinal fluid.

Evaluation, Physical Exam and Health History

Your doctor will review the symptoms, lifestyle, health history, medications and family medical history. Your doctor also may talk to you or your family about changes in your thinking skills and behavior.

Blood and Urine Tests

These standard lab tests will evaluate the following to rule out other potential causes of symptoms:

  • beta-amyloid proteins
  • blood counts
  • vitamin levels
  • mineral balance
  • liver and kidney function
  • thyroid gland function

Cognitive Assessment

A cognitive assessment may be given to help form a diagnosis and identify how the disease is progressing. Your memory will be evaluated, as well as the ability to solve simple problems and other thinking skills. A longer neuropsychological assessment may be required that will provide more details about mental function compared to those of similar age and educational level. Learn more about cognitive assessments.

Brain Imaging

Banner Health uses a variety of brain imaging tools to view structural images of the brain, including brain shrinkage, activity levels and buildup of amyloid deposits and tangles. Learn more about the brain imaging used to diagnose and measure the progress of  Alzheimer’s.

Lumbar Puncture

Also known as a spinal tap, this test checks for the tau and amyloid proteins that create plaques and tangles in the brain, a telltale sign of Alzheimer’s.

Neurological Exam

A doctor evaluates overall neurological health by testing reflexes, coordination, balance, muscle tone and strength, eye movement, speech and sensation.

Genetic Testing

While genetic testing is available for some genes that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, most health professionals do not recommend it. Talk to your doctor or a genetic counselor if you may be interested in genetic testing.

Sometimes, dementia-like symptoms can be attributed to other conditions such as depression, sleep apnea, delirium, thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies, or can be a side effect of medications. A physical exam and laboratory tests can help identify the cause of symptoms.

Banner Health is ready to provide answers through Alzheimer’s disease testing and diagnosis. Make an appointment with a doctor today. 

Have you or a loved one recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's? Learn about helpful resources for you to process, connect and move forward