Diagnosing dementia early, when symptoms are still mild, is important. If you notice any symptoms
it’s best to make an appointment with a doctor, so that an accurate diagnosis can be made. It’s helpful if someone else, who knows the person well, can go to the appointment too or speak with the doctor.

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When you go to the doctor with memory and thinking problems:

  • They will ask about your symptoms and how they are affecting you. A relative or close friend may also be asked what changes they have noticed in you.
  • You’ll be asked about your medical history and the doctor may give you a physical check-up, checking your blood pressure and balance.
  • You will have some blood tests, to rule out some possible causes like vitamin deficiencies and thyroid disorders. You may be asked for a urine sample.
  • You will be asked to do a short test of memory and thinking.
  • If your doctor suspects you may have dementia, they should refer you to a memory clinic or specialist for further tests.

A memory clinic or specialist can:

  • Perform more in-depth memory and thinking tests to determine the severity of symptoms. These tests assess memory, language, visual and spatial awareness, levels of attention and ability to reason and solve problems.
  • Send someone for a brain scan. Different types of brain scan are used to look for changes that occur in the brain when someone has a disease that causes dementia. If the doctors can see changes in certain areas of the brain this can help them to diagnose the type of dementia someone has. You can find out more about the different types of brains scans used for dementia diagnosis in our blog.
  • Arrange for a lumbar puncture. This can help doctors identify which disease someone is likely to have based on “warning signs” in the spinal fluid. Find out more about why lumbar punctures are used in dementia diagnosis and what to expect if you have one.
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When someone receives a dementia diagnosis it can come as a shock. Other people feel relieved to have an explanation for their symptoms and the change in their health. People can choose not to know their diagnosis if they prefer not to and can choose someone else who will be told.

Usually, a memory clinic concentrates on making the diagnosis and advising on first steps in support and treatment. After that, a person goes back into the care of their GP practice, where doctors and nurses will advise on longer term help, support, and treatments.

It’s important that someone diagnosed with dementia sees their doctor regularly for a general check-up, this can be every 6 to 12 months.

If you have questions about dementia, or getting a diagnosis you can contact the Dementia Research Infoline on 0300 111 5111 or email infoline@alzheimersresearchuk.org

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Problems with your memory?

Find out more about symptoms of dementia and how to get a diagnosis through your GP.

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This information was updated in August 2021 and is due to be reviewed in August 2023, it was written by Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Information Services team with input from lay and expert reviewers. Please get in touch if you’d like a version with references or in a different format.

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