Cognitive screening tests check for problems with cognition, which is a combination of processes in your brain involved with thinking, memory, language, concentration, and judgment.
Examples of common screening tests used for cognitive impairment include:
- Mini-Cog: Takes 3-5 minutes to complete. The test includes recalling three words and drawing a clock.
- Mini-Mental State Exam: Takes 7-10 minutes to complete. Questions in the test include telling the current date, counting backwards, and identifying everyday objects such as a pen or a phone. The test is useful for identifying serious cognitive illnesses such as dementia and evaluates the following:
- Short-term memory
- Language skills
- Montreal Cognitive Assessment: Takes 10-15 minutes to complete. This test includes memorizing a few words, identifying an animal from a picture, and drawing an object by looking at it. The test is better for detecting mild cognitive impairment, evaluating:
- Attention and concentration
- Executive functions
- Visuoconstructional skills
- Conceptual thinking
What causes cognitive impairment?
If you have trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions to the point that your daily life is affected, it is most likely that you have cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment can be mild, moderate, or severe.
Causes of cognitive impairment may include:
What happens after a positive screening test for cognitive impairment?
A positive screening test result indicates a problem with your cognitive skills. If you have doubts or concerns regarding the result of your screening test for cognitive impairment, talk to your doctor.
Since the test result cannot identify the cause of cognitive impairment, additional tests may be ordered:
- Neurological exam: Your doctor will perform a neurological examination and take your medical history to look for signs and symptoms that may indicate conditions such as brain tumors and Parkinson’s disease. They will perform tests that involve evaluating your reflexes, walking style, and eye movements.
- Blood tests: A blood test that measures levels of vitamin B12 in your system can help confirm whether a vitamin deficiency is causing your cognitive impairment. Another test includes a thyroid function test (TFT) that assesses your levels of thyroid hormones and thyroid-stimulating hormone. TFT can let your doctor know if you have hypothyroidism.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans of the brain: Your doctor may order an MRI or a CT scan to check if you have a brain tumor, history of stroke, or bleeding in the brain (brain hemorrhage). An MRI or a CT scan may help your doctor confirm a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. CT scans are also the most effective way of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.
Cognitive impairment caused by factors such as vitamin deficiency and hypothyroidism may improve after treatment, and in some cases, almost complete recovery is possible.
However, if the cause is Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive impairment will worsen over the years. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that is progressive in nature and has no cure, although treatment and lifestyle changes can manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
Screening for Cognitive Impairment. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1941498-overview
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