In addition to an examination of the mental state to establish the presence of disorders of mood and thought content, the examination will establish the specific pattern of cognitive impairment and the degree of impairment. Screening tests used to establish the presence of cognitive impairments include the Mini Mental State Examination/32) this is a 30-point scale routinely used in all clinical trials of drugs for the treatment of AD, which is also a useful proxy measure for severity. It should be accompanied by other cognitive testing, including supplementary examination for aphasia and apraxias. Other cognitive and physical examinations will be necessary where the differential diagnosis is between a lobar dementia (e.g. frontotemporal dementia) or a subcortical dementia (e.g. that accompanying Huntington's disease).

In addition to the cognitive examination, a physical examination should be conducted in all patients with AD, although this might not be most effectively and conveniently performed at the initial assessment. Physical illness, including chronic pain, infection, cardiac insufficiency, or anaemia are all common in the elderly and can both complicate the diagnosis of AD and increase confusion in those known to have AD.

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