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Can an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Detect Dementia?

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When it comes to diagnosing dementia, Can an MRI detect dementia? While the answer may be complicated, an MRI can help diagnose dementia.

When it comes to diagnosing dementia, there is no single test that can be done to confirm that someone is living with dementia. These include Medical history, physical exam, Neurological exam, Cognitive testing, and usually a Dementia MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) test. These tests play a crucial role in confirming if dementia is present. After a combination of different tests and evaluations, your healthcare provider can determine if you are living with dementia.

What is Dementia?

What is Dementia

Dementia is a term used when you are experiencing different symptoms that affect your cognitive thinking. There are many different types of dementia. Some of these include Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, and Frontotemporal Dementia.

Dementia symptoms vary based on the stage of dementia you are currently in and the type of dementia you are living with. Some signs you may notice include:

  • Memory Impairment
  • Confusion, more than normal
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in mood and personality
  • Behavior issues
  • Trouble sleeping

Many factors can increase one’s risk of dementia. Some factors include

  • Brain cells and neurons die over time which causes damage to the brain.
  • Trauma to the brain. This may be from head injuries, stroke, or brain tumors.
  • Depression
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Thyroid issues
  • Drug or alcohol use.

If you or a loved one think you are living with dementia, it is important to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss symptoms and concerns. They will ask you a series of simple questions and run a series of tests to help determine what is causing your dementia-like symptoms. An early diagnosis can help you plan and prepare for the future.

What Are the Benefits of an Early Diagnosis of Dementia?

There are many benefits of an early dementia diagnosis. These include:

  • After a series of testing and questions, your healthcare provider can give you an accurate diagnosis based on your symptoms.
  • If dementia is diagnosed early enough, you can play an active role in the decision-making process for your future.
  • You may be a candidate for clinical trials.
  • You can focus on things that are most important in your life.
  • If diagnosed early, you will have time to get your financial, legal, and medical matters in order.
  • Allows time for you and your family to understand the challenges ahead and prepare for them.

When will an MRI be Done to See if I Have Dementia?

Test For Diagonsing Dementia

An MRI can be done as part of your healthcare provider’s testing and evaluations to determine if you are living with dementia.

  • History

Your healthcare provider will begin with a history of your symptoms. It is a good idea for a close friend or family member to go with you. Your healthcare provider will review your medical history and ask questions as to when your dementia symptoms began. At this point, they will check to ensure that no other preexisting conditions are causing your symptoms.

  • Physical Exam

After your healthcare provider reviews your history, they will perform a physical exam and assess your overall health.

#1. Mental Status Exam- Cognitive Testing

Next, your healthcare provider may conduct a mental status exam, also known as Cognitive testing. There are four main types of Cognitive Tests that healthcare providers use. These include:

  • Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)
  • Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE)
  • Mini-Cog

During this exam, your healthcare provider may ask you a series of simple questions. These tests usually last no more than 15 minutes.

Your healthcare provider may also ask your close friend or family member a series of questions to see what they observe with your symptoms. These questions will come from one of the following tests:

  • AD8

#2. Laboratory Tests for Dementia

Your healthcare provider may order a series of laboratory tests for dementia. While these alone do not diagnose dementia, they help rule out other conditions that may be causing symptoms. Some lab tests that may be included are:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
  • Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Rapid Plasma Reagin
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus

#3. Brain Imaging for Dementia

Brain Imaging for Dementia

Brain imaging plays an instrumental role in helping to rule out other treatable conditions that may be causing dementia-like symptoms. These include strokes, tumors, and other problems that can cause dementia.

What Brain Imaging Tests Will Be Ordered by Your Healthcare Provider?

Your doctor may order one of the following brain imaging tests.

1. MRI to Detect Dementia

An MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and radio frequency pulses to create a detailed picture of the brain to detect brain abnormalities and diagnose different conditions in the brain. An MRI may be able to detect whether a stroke has occurred.

2. Brain Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging

In brain functional magnetic reasoning imaging, it uses magnetic resonance to measure blood flow and oxygen changes that take place in the active parts of the brain. This test helps assess the brain function that has been affected by a stroke, trauma, or different disease like Alzheimer’s Disease.

3. CT Scan

A CT scan combines an x-ray machine and highly powerful computers to create multiple images of the inside of the brain. A CT scan can detect degeneration of cells that is related to dementia and provide clues on the damage that may have occurred because of head injuries, stroke, or other brain diseases.

4. PET

PET is a brain imaging test that uses radiotracer, a radioactive material, to help diagnose and discover many different diseases. A PET can be done with a CT scan or an MRI. A special type of PET can help identify abnormal clusters of proteins found in those living with Alzheimer’s Disease.

5. Lumbar Puncture

While a lumbar puncture is not a brain imaging test, it is another diagnostic test that healthcare providers may order to help understand if you are living with dementia. Otherwise known as a spinal tap, it is a diagnostic test that will use a needle to remove a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid from your spinal cord. Removing some fluid helps healthcare providers understand if there are abnormalities in the flow or the amount of cerebrospinal fluid present.

Dementia is difficult to diagnose, so it is important to rule out all the different conditions that may not be dementia that are causing the same symptoms. It is important to note that many other conditions can cause dementia-like symptoms. If you notice these symptoms, you will want to immediately make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

Seeing your healthcare provider early can make a huge difference in your symptoms as well as your future treatment.

What If I Have Dementia? How is it Treated?

Dementia is a progressive disease that has no cure. With proper treatment, some types of dementia can be slowed. There are different ways to help manage symptoms. These may include:

  1. Medications:- Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help manage symptoms. These medications may include:
    • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
    • Memantine
    • Other Medications to help with depression, sleep, hallucinations, and agitation.
  2. Therapy:- It is a great non-drug approach to help manage symptoms. Get in touch with an occupational therapist in your area to help teach you how to make your home safer, as well as work with you on a variety of other things that can help! If you are a caregiver of a loved one living with dementia and you live in Texas, contact me, your Dementia Therapist!
  3. Clinical Trials:- Clinical trials may be available, especially if you are in the early stage of dementia. Talk with your healthcare provider to see if any are a good fit for you!
  4. Lifestyle Changes:- Making modifications and lifestyle changes can help manage current and future dementia symptoms. These include:
    • Reduce clutter
    • Monitoring systems
    • Hiding objects that impose a safety issue, such as guns and knives.
    • Learning to communicate better with your loved ones.
    • Exercise.
    • Participate in activities.
    • Establish routines.
    • Keep a calendar.
    • Create a plan

Visit our posts on Dementia Diagnosis for more treatment of Dementia details.


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