How do doctors diagnose dementia?

To diagnose dementia, doctors do a medical assessment to determine whether changes are because of an underlying treatable condition like depression or vitamin B12 deficiency. Then, they will assess whether there are signs of dementia.

A medical assessment for dementia generally includes:

  • Patient history. Typical questions about a person’s medical and family history might include asking about whether dementia runs in the family, how and when symptoms began, changes in behavior and personality, and if the person is taking certain medications that might cause or worsen symptoms.
  • Physical exam. Measuring blood pressure and other vital signs may help physicians detect conditions that might cause or occur with dementia. Such conditions may be treatable.
  • Neurological tests. Assessing balance, sensory function, reflexes, vision, eye movements, and other functions helps identify conditions that may affect the diagnosis or may be treatable with drugs.

Learn more about diagnosing dementia.

Author: Raj C. Shah, MD

I am geriatrician and an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center.

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