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Alzheimer's Disease

Identifying Alzheimer's Disease by Testing and Drugs

05/17/2001

Question:

Our family suspects an elderly relative may be showing symptoms of Alzheimer`s Disease and heard of a "Sassy Test" which can help evaluate this. Is there somewhere we could locate this test. Also, we heard about a drug called Aricett being used to determine if Alzheimer`s is a possibility. Can you provide any information in relation to this.

Thank you.

Answer:

If you suspect that your relative is showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, it is very important that you consult with a physician, starting with your relative's primary care physician and obtaining a referral to a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease. Regarding the "Sassy Test", that is not a test I am familiar with, but I am guessing you may have heard someone refer to the "MMSE" which stands for the Mini Mental State Examination, a widely used screening test for dementia. It is very important that a professional evaluate your relative. I would NOT recommend that you try to find a test on the net to administer to your relative yourself. It is very complicated to determine if someone has Alzheimer's disease. Since there is no single diagnostic test for Alzheimer`s disease (AD), a complete medical and neurological examination is strongly recommended to account for dementia (memory loss) symptoms. Guidelines provided by the National Alzheimer`s Association for a complete evaluation include: *A detailed medical history, provided by the patient and someone who is well acquainted with the patient. This is necessary to establish progressive intellectual deterioration and identify personality changes, problems with memory and difficulty with daily activities. *A thorough physical and neurological examination, including testing of sensory and motor systems to rule out other disorders. *A mental status test essential to evaluate orientation, attention, recent recall and the ability to calculate, read, write, name, copy drawings, repeat, understand and make judgments. *A psychiatric assessment to rule out psychiatric disorders. *Neuropsychological testing to measure a variety of functions including attention, orientation, language skills and perception. *Routine laboratory tests, including blood work, urinalysis, chest x-ray, EEG, CT or MRI, and electrocardiogram. A diagnosis of AD is made when all other disorders that could cause dementia have been ruled out (e.g., stroke, depression, thyroid disease, nutritional deficiencies, brain tumors, head trauma, subdural hematoma, and normal pressure hydrocephalus, to name a few). However, of these, Alzheimer`s is the most common cause of dementia symptoms (about 56% of those affected by dementia have AD). Regarding your second question about Aricett . There is a drug called Aricept. This drug is not used to determine if Alzheimer's is a possibility. Aricept is one of several FDA approved drugs to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. I hope this information is helpful for you. The bottom line, is that it is very important that you contact your relative's doctor. It is also good that you are seeking to understand what Alzheimer's disease is and how it is diagnosed. The websites listed below may be of further help to you. If you have further questions please contact us again.

Related Resources:

Memory and Cognition Center
Alzheimer Association
Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

For more information:

Go to the Alzheimer's Disease health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Paula K Ogrocki, PhD Paula K Ogrocki, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University