Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnostic Tests and Tools
Alzheimer's disease frequently goes unrecognized or undiagnosed in the early stages because the first symptoms are often viewed as normal parts of aging. To diagnose Alzheimer's disease, doctors use a series of tests and tools to evaluate mental function, ability to perform daily activities, and behavior, because there is no single scale that can, by itself, definitely diagnose Alzheimer's disease.
Diagnostic tests may include the Clock Drawing Test, the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), and the Functional Assessment Staging Tool (FAST). In addition to these tests, the doctor may also collect a medical and family health history and conduct a routine physical exam, an exam that tests physical sensation controlled by the nervous system, a brain scan, a neuropsychological evaluation, and interviews with family members and friends.
What Treatment Options Are Available?
There are currently 2 types of prescription medications for Alzheimer's disease. These medications work differently to treat the symptoms of the disease. Often these medications are used together in patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease.
- One type of medication is thought to work by slowing the breakdown of a chemical in the brain called acetylcholine. This chemical is involved in learning and memory. This type of medication is called an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (or AChEI). Examples of this medication include ARICEPT® (donepezil)*, RAZADYNE® (galantamine)†, and EXELON® (rivastigmine).‡
- Another type of Alzheimer's disease medication may help regulate the abnormal activity of glutamate in the brain. Glutamate is another chemical in the brain important for learning and memory. NAMENDA XR® (memantine hydrochloride) is a once-a-day medication of this type approved for moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease, which can be used alone or added to ongoing AChEI therapy.
There is no evidence that NAMENDA XR or an AChEI prevents or slows the underlying disease process in patients with Alzheimer's disease.
*ARICEPT is a registered trademark of Eisai Co., Ltd.
†RAZADYNE is a registered trademark of Johnson & Johnson.
‡EXELON and EXELON PATCH are registered trademarks of Novartis AG Corp.