How is dementia diagnosed and treated?

To diagnose dementia, a doctor will complete a medical history, physical exam, and neurological tests that assess balance, sensory response, reflexes, and memory and thinking skills. In addition, a doctor may order brain scans, blood tests, genetic tests, a spinal tap, and a mental health evaluation to help determine a diagnosis.

Because different types of dementia can share similar symptoms, providing an accurate diagnosis can be difficult. In addition, dementia may be difficult to diagnose as a single disease given that a person could have more than one type.

Visiting a primary care doctor is often the first step for people who are experiencing symptoms of dementia. Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist, which is a specialist in disorders of the brain and nervous system. Neurologists generally have the expertise needed to diagnose dementia.

While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s or related dementias, medicines are emerging to treat disease progression. There are also medications that may temporarily improve or stabilize memory and thinking skills in some people and may help manage certain symptoms and behavioral problems. A team of specialists — doctors, nurses, and therapists — can help with maintaining mobility; addressing speech and swallowing problems; and learning new ways to handle loss of skills with everyday tasks, such as feeding oneself.

Through substantial investments from the U.S. federal government and others, researchers continue to advance scientific growth and discovery to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and care of those living with dementia.

If you are concerned about memory problems or other symptoms of dementia, call your doctor. If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed, explore the resources on this website and referenced below to find out more about dementia care, support, and research. It is important to educate family, friends, and caregivers about a loved one’s diagnosis. In-person and online support groups offered by nonprofit organizations can provide families and caregivers with additional resources and opportunities to share experiences and express concerns. You may also consider participating in a clinical trial or study.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email