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Post Screening Steps

Follow Up

If a memory screening indicates possible intellectual impairment, see your doctor or another qualified healthcare professional as soon as possible for a complete medical evaluation.

It is important to visit a healthcare professional with expertise in dementia. This might be a local primary care physician, a neurologist, a geriatrician, psychologist or a psychiatrist.

Follow-up is necessary to identify the disease or problem that is causing memory loss. Memory can be affected by a number of factors, ranging from stress and lack of sleep, to such illnesses as Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.

Some conditions that cause memory loss, such as vitamin deficiencies, depression or thyroid problems, are reversible. In general, the earlier the diagnosis, the easier it is to treat one of these conditions.

For irreversible illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease, early diagnosis could improve your future health. Although there currently is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, available and emerging medical treatments may slow the progression of symptoms. These medications have been proven to work best the earlier they are given.

Clinicians diagnose "probable" Alzheimer's disease by doing a thorough diagnostic work-up.
This includes:

  • Complete medical history, which includes family history, previous and existing illnesses, and information about the onset and duration of symptoms related to memory loss.
  • Physical examination to find evidence of any underlying medical or neurological disorders that may be contributing to symptoms.
  • Neuropsychological tests that gauge memory, attention, language skills and problem-solving abilities—similar to those used during a memory screening.
  • Laboratory tests—of vitamin levels and thyroid function, for example—to detect the presence of any systemic diseases or vitamin deficiencies that may be contributing to symptoms.
  • Brain imaging scans, such as a CT scan, MRI, SPECT or PET scan, to identify changes in brain structure or activity that indicate a possible cause of dementia.

Clinicians can now diagnose Alzheimer's disease with up to 90 percent accuracy. But it can only be confirmed by an autopsy, during which pathologists look for the disease's characteristic plaques and tangles in brain tissue.