Skip to content

    Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Dementia - Exams and Tests

    Doctors diagnose the cause of dementia by asking questions about the person's medical history and doing a physical exam, a mental status exam, and lab and imaging tests.

    Tests can help the doctor learn whether dementia is caused by a treatable condition. Even for those dementias that cannot be reversed, knowing the type of dementia a person has can help the doctor prescribe medicines or other treatments that may improve mood and behavior and help the family.

    Recommended Related to Alzheimer's

    Where to Begin When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

    When someone you love gets diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s hard to know where to start planning for the future. Your new role as caregiver can be overwhelming. You’ll have to steer through the stages of dementia, starting with memory loss and confusion. Over time, your friend or family member will need help with everyday activities. As the decision maker, you’ll need to have an action plan in place. Here’s a checklist of things to consider. 1. Put together a team. This is a lot of responsibility...

    Read the Where to Begin When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s article > >

    Medical history

    During a medical history and physical exam, the doctor will ask the affected person and a close relative or partner about recent illnesses or other life events that could cause memory loss or other symptoms such as behavioral problems. The doctor may ask the person to bring in all medicines he or she takes. This can help the doctor find out if the problem might be caused by the person being overmedicated or having a drug interaction.

    Although a person may have more than one illness causing dementia, symptoms sometimes can distinguish one form from another. For example, early in the course of frontotemporal dementia, people may display a lack of social awareness and develop obsessions with eating, neither of which occurs early in other dementias.

    Mental status exam

    A doctor or other health professional will conduct a mental status exam. This test usually involves such activities as having the person tell what day and year it is, repeat a series of words, draw a clock face, and count back from 100 by 7s.

    Other tests have been developed to diagnose dementia. Doctors can use one such test, Addenbrooke's Cognitive Examination, to distinguish Alzheimer's disease from frontotemporal dementia. Orientation, attention, and memory are worse in Alzheimer's, while language skills and ability to name objects are worse in frontotemporal dementia.

    Lab tests

    Many medical conditions can cause mental impairment. During a physical exam, the doctor will look for signs of other medical conditions and have lab tests done to find any treatable condition. Routine tests include:

    Other lab tests that may be done include:

    1 | 2
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Remember your finger
    When it’s more than just forgetfulness.
    senior man with serious expression
    Which kinds are treatable?
     
    senior man
    Common symptoms to look for.
    mri scan of human brain
    Can drinking red wine reverse the disease?
     
    Checklist
    ARTICLE
    eating blueberries
    ARTICLE
     
    clock
    Article
    Colored mri of brain
    ARTICLE
     
    Human brain graphic
    ARTICLE
    mature woman
    ARTICLE
     
    Woman comforting ailing mother
    ARTICLE
    Senior woman with serious expression
    ARTICLE