How Biomarkers Help Diagnose Dementia

Biomarkers are measurable indicators of what’s happening in the body. They can help doctors and researchers track healthy processes, diagnose diseases and other health conditions, monitor responses to medication, and identify health risks. When combined with other tests, the following biomarkers can help doctors determine whether a person might have, or be at risk of developing, Alzheimer’s or a related dementia:

  • Brain imaging. Brain scans allow doctors and scientists to see factors, such as shrinkage of brain regions, that may help diagnose dementia. Brain scans used to help find evidence of dementia include CT, MRI, and PET scans. 
  • Cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers (CSF). CSF is a clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, providing protection and insulation. Proteins and other substances made by brain cells can be detected in CSF. Doctors can perform a lumbar puncture to get CSF and, by measuring changes in the levels of these substances, can help diagnose neurological problems. 
  • Blood tests. Levels of certain proteins in the brain may change due to Alzheimer’s, a stroke, or other brain disorders. Sensitive blood tests can measure proteins such as beta-amyloid to help make a diagnosis. Availability of these tests is limited, though. They are more common in research settings.

Learn more about how biomarkers can help diagnose dementia.

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