Is there a simple test for Alzheimer's?
There is no single test to confirm Alzheimer’s disease; however, doctors use a combination of investigations, signs, and questionnaires to make the diagnosis.

A few tests, such as “drawing a clock with correct timing,” checking for loss of sensation of smell, and the “SAGE questionnaire,” are the most often tests used to detect Alzheimer’s.

However, there is no single simple test to confirm Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors use several investigations, clinical signs, and questionnaires to determine if a person has Alzheimer’s disease. These include:

  • Medical history. Asking the affected person and a family member or friend about
    • Symptoms
    • History of exposure to heavy metals, such as mercury or lead
    • Coexisting conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes (which predispose a person to vascular dementia), to rule out other dementia causes
    • General health
    • Use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines
    • Ability to carry out daily activities
    • Any changes in behavior and personality
  • Psychiatric evaluation. This helps the doctor to identify if there is any mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, that is causing the symptoms.
  • Tests to evaluate cognitive functioning. Tests that assess mental abilities, such as memory, problem-solving, attention, counting, and language.
  • Laboratory tests. Blood and urine tests can help rule out other causes. A blood test to measure levels of beta-amyloid (a protein that accumulates abnormally in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s) is available to confirm the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
  • Imaging tests of the brain. Computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging, or positron emission tomography to rule out other causes, such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease, or support a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

What is the SAGE test?

A test called the self-administered gerocognitive exam (SAGE) can be used to check if you have symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is characterized by a minor deterioration in mental abilities, including memory. A person with MCI is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. About 10 to 15 percent of individuals with MCI progress to develop dementia each year.

Symptoms of MCI include:

  • Memory loss; forgetting certain words
  • Forgetting important events, such as appointments or events
  • Losing the train of thought in conversation
  • Decrease in the ability to make sound judgment

How does the SAGE test work?

For SAGE, you just need a pen and paper, which contains the questions to assess your mental abilities, such as your thinking abilities. This can help your doctors understand how well your brain is functioning in terms of skills, such as memory, problem-solving, attention, counting, and language.

SAGE assesses:

  • Memory
  • Orientation concerning time (month, date, year)
  • Language
  • Reasoning and calculations
  • Visuospatial (three-dimensional construction and clock drawing)
  • Executive (problem-solving)

SAGE is just a screening tool to detect patients with MCI, and it is not a confirmatory test for Alzheimer’s. It can help your doctor decide if you need further testing.

Early detection of MCI can help the doctor monitor your condition for early treatment.

QUESTION

One of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is __________________. See Answer

Who can take the SAGE test?

Anyone who is experiencing memory, language, problem-solving, or thinking problems can take the self-administered gerocognitive exam (SAGE) test. Your doctor may recommend you take the test to check if you have mild cognitive impairment. Family and friends can encourage their loved ones if they spot behavior and thinking changes in them.

If you have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, you may take a SAGE test at any point and use it to compare in the future when you notice problems in your mental functioning.

The test is available for free at the Wexner Medical Center website of the Ohio State University.

How to take the SAGE test

You can take any of the four versions of the test available on the website. The test consists of four pages. Make a printout and fill out the questionnaire using a pen.

The test requires just 15 minutes of your time, and you can do it anywhere. Sometimes, your doctor may ask you to take the test at their office.

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Medically Reviewed on 5/5/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Image

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. SAGE: A Test to Detect Signs of Alzheimer's and Dementia. https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/brain-spine-neuro/memory-disorders/sage