Dementia Symptoms & Diagnosis

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Dementia Guide

Alison Beaver

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Symptoms

They often begin mildly and progress over time. Symptoms vary according to the cause of the dementia, but often include:

  • Increasing trouble remembering things, such as:
    • How to get to familiar locations
    • What the names of family and friends are
    • Where common objects are usually kept
    • How to do simple math
    • How to do usual tasks, such as cooking, dressing, bathing, etc.
    • How to drive
    • How to pay bills
  • Having difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • Having difficulty completing sentences due to lost/forgotten words (may progress to complete inability to speak)
  • Forgetting the date, time of day, season
  • Getting lost in familiar surroundings
  • Having mood swings
  • Being withdrawn, losing interest in usual activities
  • Having personality changes
  • Walking in a slow, shuffling way
  • Having poor coordination
  • Losing purposeful movement

Diagnosis

Doctors diagnose dementia by:

  • Getting an extensive medical history from you and your family
  • Closely observing you
  • Doing a physical and neurological exam
  • Doing mental status and psychological tests

There are no blood tests or exams that can definitively diagnose Alzheimer's disease. Certain types of brain imaging such as a SPECT or a PET scan may aid in a diagnosis. Tests to rule out other causes of dementia and other medical conditions that may mimic dementia include:

  • Blood tests for syphilis , vitamin B12 , folate , thyroid, liver, and kidney function
  • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the head
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the head
  • PET or SPECT scans—tests that use dyes to measure the activity levels of various areas of the brain (used in some cases)
  • Lumbar puncture —a test of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the lower back; may be done to look for infection or bleeding
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) —a test that records the brain's activity by measuring electrical signals from the brain

The doctor will also check to see if you have depression . It can often present like dementia.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2014 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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