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Center of Excellence for Alzheimer's Disease (CEAD)
at SUNY Downstate Medical Center

The Diagnosis & Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's is difficult to diagnose, not one doctor specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. It's best with a team of professionals including neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychologist, psychiatrists, geriatricians, and others. A total diagnostic workup includes medical history, imaging procedures, and neuropsychological testing, as well as other procedures depending on the individual's presentation When a neuropsychologist or other professional in the field of psychology or psychiatry sees a person exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's, a set of criteria is often used to help make an accurate diagnosis. The DSM-IV outlines a detailed set of criteria for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

First multiple cognitive deficits must be present, one of which must be memory impairment. In addition, one or more of the following must be displayed:

Aphasia – a deterioration of language abilities, which can manifest in several ways.

Apraxia – difficulty executing motor activities, even though movement, senses, and the ability to understand what is being asked are still intact.

Agnosia – an impaired ability to recognize or identify objects, even though sensory abilities are intact.

Problems with executive functioning such as planning tasks, organizing projects, or carrying out goals in the proper sequence.

In order to meet the criteria for AD, the deficits must affect one's ability to hold a job, fulfill domestic responsibilities and/or maintain social relationships. The deficits must also represent a significant decline from the person's previous level of functioning.

(American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.)