Medical history and Alzheimer's disease

A person's medical history is an important part of the evaluation when the person has symptoms of dementia.

A family member can be very helpful in providing information about the person's symptoms, such as when the symptoms were first noticed, how quickly they developed, and whether they have continued to get worse.

Other information important to the health professional taking the medical history includes:

  • Other medical problems the person has had, such as stroke, Parkinson's disease, HIV infection, depression, head injury, heart disease, or lipid disorders (problems with cholesterol levels).
  • Whether there is a history of Alzheimer's disease or dementia in the family.
  • The person's family, social, cultural, and educational background, as well as any recent unusual events in the person's life. These factors can influence how a person performs on a mental status test, and some experts believe that they may affect the risk of dementia.
  • What medications the person is taking. Some medications can contribute to memory loss or mental impairment. This side effect of certain drugs is an easy problem to correct but is often overlooked as the cause of symptoms.
  • History of alcohol or drug abuse.

Last Updated: November 10, 2008

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