Dementia :: New dementia screening tool detects early cognitive problems

A screening tool for dementia developed by Saint Louis University geriatricians appears to work better in identifying mild cognitive problems in the elderly than the commonly used Mini Mental Status Examination, according to a new study.

Physicians routinely administer the Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE) to patients who they believe may have Alzheimer’s disease. Both the MMSE and SLU’s screening tool ?- the Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination (SLUMS) ?- indicate to doctors when they should pursue further testing in diagnosing dementia.

“This early detection of mild neurocognitive disorder by the SLUMS offers the opportunity for the clinicians to begin early treatment as it becomes available,” says Syed Tariq, M.D., lead author and associate professor of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University.

Dementia (from Latin de- “apart, away” + mens (genitive mentis) “mind”) is the progressive decline in cognitive function due to damage or disease in the brain beyond what might be expected from normal aging. Particularly affected areas may be memory, attention, language and problem solving, although particularly in the later stages of the condition, affected persons may be disoriented in time (not knowing what day (of the week, or possibly of the month), what month or what year it is), place (not knowing where they are) and person (not knowing who they are). Symptoms of dementia can be classified as either reversible or irreversible depending upon the etiology of the disease. Less than 10% of all dementias are reversible. Dementia is a non-specific term that encompasses many disease processes, just as fever is attributable to many etiologies.