Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease as early as possible is important. It means you can get the right support and treatments. It also means you can plan for the future. If you are worried about your thinking, memory, or health, you should talk to your doctor.

Alison Littleford

Getting a diagnosis was important for us so we would know what we were dealing with and could have some sense of control over it.

- Alison, whose husband Frank is living with Alzheimer's

If you visit your doctor with concerns about dementia symptoms, first they will:

  • Check your physical health and medical history.
  • Ask you about your symptoms and concerns.
  • Run a blood test to rule out other causes of your symptoms, like vitamin deficiencies or a thyroid disorder.
  • Ask you to complete some quick memory and thinking tests.
  • If possible, ask someone who knows you well about your symptoms and how they affect you.

 

If your doctor suspects Alzheimer’s or another cause of dementia, they may then refer you to a memory clinic or another specialist clinic. Here, a doctor or nurse will run through some further questions and tests with you. These are likely to include:

  • Questions about your concerns, your symptoms, and how they affect you day-to-day.
  • A physical check-up.
  • A brain scan and maybe a lumbar puncture.
  • Completing some in-depth tests to check your memory, thinking and problem-solving skills.
Alison Littleford

Frank's diagnosis involved several visits to his GP and then to a consultant psychiatrist at the memory clinic. They needed to rule everything else out before they could give the Alzheimer's diagnosis.

Occasionally a lumbar puncture is used, where a sample of fluid is taken from the base of the spine. This tests for abnormal levels of proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease, called amyloid and tau.

Together, all of these things will help a doctor find out about any problems in memory or thinking and the likely cause.

If symptoms are mild or the cause is uncertain, the doctor may want to look for any further changes over time. For this reason, they may ask you to come back in six months or a year to repeat these assessments.

Currently, there is no way to diagnose any type of dementia with 100% accuracy. Your doctor will make the best judgement about the most likely cause of your symptoms based on the information they collect from these assessments and tests.

 

For more information on what to do if you are experiencing symptoms and want to know more about dementia diagnosis visit this page or contact the Dementia Research Infoline on 0300 111 5111 or infoline@alzheimersresearchuk.org 

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Find out more about the symptoms and causes of Alzheimer's disease, and the treatments currently available.

AD
RS1317_Alex_Wallace_Photography_ARUK_Rebrand_Des and Valli_April 2023 (64) (1)

Order health information

Alzheimer’s Research UK has a wide range of information about dementia. Order booklets or download them from our online form.

This information was updated in May 2022 and is due to be reviewed in May 2024. 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.

 

Was this information helpful?

Let us know what you think by filling out this short survey.

Infoline banner-Alternative (1)

Dementia Research Infoline

Want to know more about diagnosing dementia? Keen to get involved in research projects?

Contact the Dementia Research Infoline

9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

0300 111 5 111

infoline@alzheimersresearchuk.org