Benefits of early dementia diagnosis
Dementia is one of the health conditions that people are most frightened of.
According to a study by Alzheimer's Society, that fear means more than half of people put off getting a dementia diagnosis for up to a year.
And almost two-thirds of people surveyed felt a diagnosis would mean their life was over.
But an accurate early, or timely, diagnosis of dementia can have many benefits.
- an explanation for symptoms that may have been worrying you or your family
- access to treatments that can improve symptoms and slow down the progress of the disease
- access to advice and support
- time to prepare for the future and plan ahead
When to see your GP
As you get older, you may find memory loss becomes a problem.
But dementia isn't just about memory loss. It can also affect the way you speak, think, feel and behave.
If you, or someone you know, are experiencing problems that are affecting daily life and these problems have been going on for at least 6 months, it's a good idea to talk to a GP.
Find out more about how to get a dementia diagnosis.
How your GP can help
Your GP will ask about your symptoms and other aspects of your health, and will give you a physical examination.
Memory problems don't necessarily mean you have dementia.
These problems can also be caused by other factors, such as:
- health conditions, including thyroid problems, stroke, diabetes
- drinking too much alcohol
- side effects of medication
- depression and anxiety
Your GP will organise blood tests to help rule out other causes of memory problems.
You'll also be asked to do a memory or cognitive test. Early symptoms of memory and thinking problems can be mild.
If your GP is uncertain about the results, you may be referred to a specialist at a memory clinic.
Find out more about the tests for diagnosing dementia.
If the diagnosis is dementia
A dementia diagnosis can come as a shock, but over time some people come to view it in a positive way.
This is because although at present there's no cure for dementia, there are ways you can slow it down and maintain mental function if it's diagnosed in the early stages.
A diagnosis can also help people with dementia get the right information and support, and help those close to them prepare and plan for the future.
With the right support and encouragement, those who have a dementia diagnosis can take an active role in managing their condition.
It's important to remember that everyone experiences dementia and its progression in their own way.
With treatment and support, many people are able to lead active, fulfilled lives.
Read more about what to do if you've just been diagnosed with dementia.
A diagnosis is also important for research and understanding more about the causes of dementia. Research can also help develop new treatments.
If you have a diagnosis of dementia or memory problems that aren't severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia, you may be able to help scientists better understand the disease by taking part in research.
There are dozens of dementia research projects going on around the world, and many of these are based in the UK.
If you're a carer for someone with dementia, you can also take part in research.
You can sign up to take part in trials on the NHS Join Dementia Research website.
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Page last reviewed: 9 July 2017
Next review due: 9 July 2020