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Alzheimer's Society
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Diagnosing dementia

Diagnosing dementia is often difficult, particularly in the early stages. The GP is the first person to consult. The GP may then refer the person being diagnosed to a specialist consultant.

Assessments can include conversations with the person being diagnosed and those close to them, a physical examination, memory tests and/or brain scans.

The Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) is the most commonly used test for complaints of memory problems or when a diagnosis of dementia is being considered.

Becoming forgetful does not necessarily mean that you have dementia. Memory loss can be an effect of ageing. It can also be a symptom of stress or depression. In rare cases, dementia-like symptoms can be caused by vitamin deficiencies and/or a brain tumour.

A definite diagnosis of the cause of dementia may only be confirmed at post mortem or, in very rare instances, through a brain biopsy.

Dementia map

Take a look at our dementia map to see state of dementia and diagnosis levels in the UK

Watch our film of Bob and Jo, who discuss the impact that getting a diagnosis has had on their lives (duration 2:35)


See a full transcript for this video

       

Symptoms

Some of the first signs of Alzheimer's disease include lapses in memory and problems with finding the right words. Other symptoms that may develop include:

  • Memory problems: For example, forgetting the way home from the shops, or being unable to remember names and places.
  • Mood changes: Particularly as the parts of the brain that control emotion become affected by disease. People with dementia may also feel sad, frightened or angry about what is happening to them.
  • Communication problems: For example, a decline in the ability to talk, read and write.
       

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