Diagnosis

Because the first symptoms are often visual, it's not uncommon for posterior cortical atrophy to be misdiagnosed as a vision disorder. It's important to see a neurologist who can correctly diagnose your condition.

To diagnose posterior cortical atrophy, your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms, including vision difficulties, and conduct a physical examination and a neurological examination.

Your doctor may order several tests to help diagnose your condition and exclude other conditions that may cause similar symptoms, including:

  • Mental status and neuropsychological tests. Your doctor will ask you questions and conduct tests to assess your cognitive skills. You may have psychiatric assessments to test for depression or other mental illnesses.
  • Blood tests. Your blood may be tested for vitamin deficiency, thyroid disorders and other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
  • Ophthalmology examination. Your doctor will conduct a vision test to determine whether another condition such as a problem within your eyes is causing your vision symptoms.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI machine uses powerful radio waves and a magnetic field to create a 3D view of your brain. In this test, your doctor can view abnormalities in your brain that may be causing your symptoms.
  • Positive emission tomography (PET) or single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT). In these tests, a doctor injects a small amount of radioactive material and places emission detectors on your brain. PET provides visual images of brain activity. SPECT measures blood flow to various regions of your brain.

Treatment

There are no treatments to cure or slow the progression of posterior cortical atrophy. While some research suggests that drugs commonly used to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease may help manage symptoms of posterior cortical atrophy, this hasn't been proved and more research is needed.

Some therapies and medications can help you manage your condition. Treatment options to help manage symptoms of posterior cortical atrophy may include:

  • Medications. Your doctor may give you medications to treat symptoms, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Physical, occupational or cognitive therapy. These therapies may help you regain or retain skills that are affected by posterior cortical atrophy.

Posterior cortical atrophy care at Mayo Clinic

Oct. 29, 2021
  1. Crutch SJ, et al. Consensus classification of posterior cortical atrophy. Alzheimer's and Dementia. 2017; doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2017.01.014.
  2. Posterior cortical atrophy. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/dementia/posterior-cortical-atrophy.asp. Accessed Nov. 3, 2020.
  3. Weill-Chounlamountry A, et al. Non-pharmacological intervention for posterior cortical atrophy. World Journal of Clinical Cases. 2016; doi:10.12998/wjcc.v4.i8.195.
  4. Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic. Oct. 23, 2020.
  5. Graff-Radford J (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Oct. 26, 2020.
  6. Wolk DA, et al. Clinical features and diagnosis of Alzheimer disease. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Nov. 3, 2020.

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