A dementia diagnosis is crucial to gaining access to the right support, but it also plays a key role in progressing research efforts.
Diagnosing dementia, and which form of the condition someone has, is important. It will ensure that people can get the right support and treatments and can plan for the future. Let’s take a look at how dementia is diagnosed today.
What to do if you suspect you or someone you know has dementia?
Your GP is the first person to contact if you have any worries about your health, or the health of someone you know. If the GP suspects dementia, they are likely to refer the person on to a memory clinic or specialist. These specialists may include old age psychiatrists, geriatricians, neurologists, clinical psychologists and memory nurses.
Hear from Dr Dennis Chan about getting a diagnosis for dementia.
What can a person expect when they see a GP?
When a person sees a doctor or nurse with concerns about their memory or thinking, they will ask you about their symptoms and medical history. They may also speak with their partner or someone close to them about these symptoms. They may also ask some questions relating to the person’s memory and carry out a physical check-up.
Can a person be tested for dementia?
There is a range of memory tests available, and a person might take one or more of these during their assessment. Because dementia gets worse over time, the tests may be repeated, perhaps after six to 12 months, to see if there have been any changes. Other tests, including blood tests and brain scans, could be arranged.
Very occasionally, a doctor may arrange an EEG (brain wave test) or a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) if they suspect a rare form of dementia. In a lumbar puncture, a needle is used to take a sample of fluid from the bottom of someone’s spine.
Why is an earlier diagnosis needed?
At the moment, a formal dementia diagnosis is made quite late in the disease process. By the time we see symptoms in a person, the diseases have been progressing in the brain for around 10-15 years.
Recent research has shown that the earlier we are able to treat the diseases causing dementia, the greater chance we have of being able to change the lives of people living with the condition. And our only way of being able to treat earlier, is to diagnose earlier.
How can we diagnose earlier?
Ultimately, we’d like to be able to use more simple tests, like a blood test, to see if somebody has dementia before they begin to show symptoms. We are working at the forefront of technology to achieve this feat.