Diagnosing dementia early is important. You will be able to get the right help, treatments and support and plan for the future. You may also be able to take part in research studies. You should speak to your doctor about your concerns as soon as possible.

When someone goes to their doctor about symptoms of dementia the doctor will:

  • ask about your symptoms and medical history and may give you a physical check-up.
  • ask you to do some memory and thinking tests.
  • run other tests, like blood tests, which may help the doctor to rule out other common causes for your symptoms like thyroid disorders or vitamin deficiencies.

If the doctor suspects dementia they should refer the person on to a specialist doctor or memory clinic. Here doctors are more able to diagnose young onset dementia and may do:

  • a brain scan to look for changes in the structure of your brain or to rule out other causes of your symptoms.
  • in depth memory and thinking tests.
  • A lumbar puncture which can help to detect “markers” of the diseases that cause dementia in a sample of your spinal fluid.

People who experience dementia symptoms at a younger age can often struggle to get a diagnosis or referrals, and the process can take longer than it does for someone over the age of 65. This is in part because young onset dementia is less common and more likely to present with unusual symptoms. So, some doctors may not recognise dementia symptoms in younger people or put it down to other common conditions like stress, depression or menopause.

Imran Sherwani

Eventually, after my symptoms put a lot of strain on me, I went to the doctor. That led to a three-year journey of tests and brain scans until I was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

- Imran, who lives with young onset Alzheimer's

If you are struggling to get a diagnosis you can ask for a second opinion from another doctor. Keep a diary of your symptoms and how they affect your everyday life, as this can be helpful to show doctors when you have appointments.

You can also contact Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurses, who are dementia specialist nurses on 0800 888 6678 or helpline@dementiauk.org. They can advise people that are struggling to get a diagnosis.

You can find more information about getting a diagnosis of dementia here. The "Personal checklist” produced by Young Dementia Network can also aid discussions with your doctor about symptoms.

Young onset dementia

This leaflet aims to give an introduction to young onset dementia. It’s for anyone who might be worried about themselves or somebody else.

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

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Dementia Research Infoline

Do you have further questions about dementia? Want to know more dementia  research or how to take part in studies?

Contact the Dementia Research Infoline,

9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

0300 111 5 111

infoline@alzheimersresearchuk.org