The doctor will ask when memory problems started and how quickly they got worse. This information, together with the person's age, can point toward a likely diagnosis. For example, if the person is elderly and has had consistently worsening memory and other problems for several years, a doctor may suspect Alzheimer's disease. If symptoms got worse rapidly, then Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease may be a likely cause. If the person has had a history of high blood pressure, diabetes and vascular disease, a doctor may suspect stroke.
To diagnose dementia, a doctor looks to see if a person's memory gets progressively worse, along with at least one of the following:
Doctors test people by testing memory and attention. A commonly used tool to screen for dementia is the Mini Mental State Exam. It consists of 11 short assessments, such as asking the person what day and year it is or have the person count backward from 100 by sevens (100, 93, 86, etc.). If the person answers correctly, dementia is less likely.
Laboratory tests can narrow down the possible causes. Some tests include:
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