Diagnosing dementia is important. It means someone can get the right treatments, support and help with their condition. If you are worried about your dementia symptoms, or someone else’s, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

When you go to the doctor with memory concerns or symptoms of dementia, the doctor will:

  • Ask you about symptoms and how they are affecting you.
  • Ask a relative or close friend if they have noticed any changes.
  • Check your medical history.
  • Give you a physical check-up, checking your blood pressure and balance.
  • Run a blood test to rule out some other possible causes, like vitamin deficiencies and thyroid disorders. They may also ask you for a urine sample.
  • Ask you to do some memory and thinking tests.
Sue Strachan

A clinical psychologist went through various tests with me over a period of three months. She asked me fairly early on ‘if you were to get a diagnosis of dementia, do you want to know?’ I thought ‘absolutely I’ve got to know what I’m dealing with’. When she actually told me I felt like I’d been punched in stomach. At the same time, though, I was relieved, as I knew something was wrong with me and now I could put a name to it.

- Sue, who lives with vascular dementia

If your doctor suspects dementia, you may be referred to a memory clinic or another specialist doctor. A memory clinic or specialist doctor may:

  • Do another physical check-up and some more memory and thinking tests.
  • Send you for other tests like a brain scan. Brain scans such as CT (computerised tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be used to show the doctors any changes in blood vessels or signs of a stroke/s.

Together, the results of all of these tests will help the doctor to identify the likely cause of the symptoms. However, it can be difficult to know the exact cause or underlying reason that someone develops vascular dementia. Researchers are working hard to look for more accurate ways of diagnosing conditions like small vessel disease and cerebral amyloid angiopathy that can lead to vascular dementia.

You can find more information about getting a diagnosis of dementia here.

If you're concerned about rare inherited forms of vascular dementia, you should discuss this with your GP. They may refer you to a specialist clinic. You can also find out more here.

Olive Munro - Dementia Uncovered (1)

I’m pleased I had an earlier diagnosis. I can put things in place and make choices now rather than later on relying on my loved to make those choices for me. For example, when my dementia has progressed, I don’t want my children to have to take me in and look after me – I want to go into a home. So, it’s good that my family know my wishes.

- Olive, who lives with vascular dementia

What is vascular dementia?

This booklet aims to help you understand more about vascular dementia. It gives an overview of the causes, symptoms and treatments.

Sue Strachan - Photo credit Alex Wallace
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 December 2023 and is due to be reviewed in December 2025. 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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