Update on Dementia: New Test Can Offer Earlier Diagnosis

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

A new test could trump the standard version that’s currently in place when it comes to assessing the presence of mild cognitive decline in older individuals. This improvement in early detection may mean that a lot more people could have their condition diagnosed earlier on, thus helping improve their treatment options in the long run.

 Before we look at the study that focused on this new testing method, let’s briefly review what dementia is. Basically, it’s cognitive disorder that makes it difficult for a person to communicate, learn, and remember things, which, over time, makes it challenging if not downright impossible for one to take care or him/herself. It’s especially tragic, as it can also alter a person’s personality and mood, rendering you or a loved on barely recognizable. In the start, it may present as memory loss or difficulties in thinking clearly, but it can progress to disruptive behavior and other difficult-to-manage problems.

 There are some common signs that may signal a subsequently potential diagnosis of dementia. If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have dementia, but you should certainly discuss them with your doctor or health care provider, as early detection, which I’m about to discuss, is highly beneficial:

 –Difficulty doing familiar and basic tasks –Recent memory loss –Poor judgment –Lack of initiative –Misplacing or losing things frequently –Changes in personality –Difficulties in abstract thinking –Experiencing mood swings –Difficulty speaking –Disoriented response to time and place

 Let’s get to the new study. Published in the November issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, researchers compared the current screening test being used for dementia, the “Mini Mental Status Exam, or MMSE, and The Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination, or SLUMS, for short. In the SLUMS test, participants are asked to perform a variety of simple tasks that involve recalling facts, doing simple math calculations, naming animals, and drawing hands on a clock, for example.

 In comparison to the MMSE, the researchers found that the SLUMS test was better at determining if a patient warranted an early diagnosis of dementia. According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Syed Tariq, “The Mini Mental Status Examination has limitations, especially with regard to its use in more educated patients and as a screen for mild neurocognitive disorder.”

 In the study, researchers looked at 705 men who were 60 and up in age, where they administered both the MMSE and SLUMS tests to each individual. What they found was that both tests had the ability to detect dementia in patients, but it was the SLUMS test alone that could detect mild cognitive problems in the participants. The possibility of detecting mild cognitive problems before they turn into full-blown dementia can offer patients more time to deal with the problem as well as a broader range of treatment options as well.

 He also added “SLUMS has the advantage in that it can help the clinician identify patients with mild neurocognitive disorder on the initial visit, compared to MMSE, which requires a follow-up screening. This early detection of mild neurocognitive disorder by SLUMS offers the opportunity for the clinicians to begin early treatment as it becomes available.”

 Look into testing if you experience any of the symptoms of dementia or if you have a family history of the disease. It could mean a better future with more treatment options.