What Are Some Important Things To Consider When Giving My Doctor A Medical History To Diagnose Alzheimer's Disease?

Dr. DeKosky answers the question: 'Helping My Doctor Diagnose Alzheimer's?'

May 4, 2009 -- Question: What are some important things to consider when giving my doctor a medical history to diagnose Alzheimer's disease?

Answer: Your physician will want to know a number of things about whatever the memory complaint is that you bring to his office. So for example, you want to know was the problem you're having, let's assume it was a memory change, sudden in onset? Or was it very slow and insidious in onset? Was there a new medication that you began to take during the time that you first noticed the clinical symptoms of the memory change or the dullness of thinking? And were there any new medical diagnoses that were made during the time shortly after which you began to notice problems with thinking?

Many times, especially in older people, the presence of certain diseases in late-life will cause problems with thinking unrelated to any primary brain changes. And frequently medications that we use for different kinds of disorders of general medical disorders may cause some dullness in thinking, especially at first, before your body gets used to them.

But physicians will always want to know about any systemic illnesses. That is medical illnesses with which you've been diagnosed, medications that were given for those -- especially any that may have been started around the time that symptoms emerged that led you to complain about a memory problem or thinking problem, and whether you have any family history of memory problems or other thinking problems.