Causes of Dementia

Scientists are still not certain what causes dementia. Age and family history have been identified as potential risk factors. Researchers are exploring the role of genetics in the development of Alzheimer's but most agree the disease is likely caused by a variety of factors. Each year, scientists are uncovering important new clues about potential causes of the disease which is helping to generate more accurate diagnostic tests and better treatment options for affected individuals.

Currently, there is no single diagnostic test that can detect if a person has Alzheimer's disease. However, new diagnostic tools and criteria make it possible for physicians to make a positive clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease with an accuracy of approximately 90 percent. Although as yet, the onset of the disease cannot be stopped or reversed, an early diagnosis gives affected individuals a greater chance of benefiting from existing treatments and allows them and their families more time to plan for the future.

The diagnostic process may take more than one day and will involve a visit to a specialty physician. Parts of the evaluations commonly performed to determine the diagnosis include: medical history, mental status evaluation, physical examination, neurological examination, laboratory tests and psychiatric, psychological and other evaluations. The only way to confirm a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is through autopsy.

Since dementia can be caused by many things it is important to see if it is due to a cause that is curable. Alzheimer's disease is not currently curable but it is treatable with medications and strategies that can enhance quality-of-life. Accurate and early diagnosis is very important.