Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Alzheimer's disease diagnosis

3-minute read

Visit your doctor if you think that you or someone close to you may have Alzheimer's disease.

It’s important to find out whether the symptoms that are worrying you are being caused by Alzheimer’s disease, or whether a different condition is causing them.

Your doctor may want to know about any new or worsening problems that you have noticed, such as:

  • forgetfulness
  • speech problems
  • changes in your behaviour
  • difficulty with everyday activities

Read more about the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Tests

There is no definitive test for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease, and the diagnosis is usually based on ruling out other conditions. Diagnosis usually involves a number of steps, including:

  • taking a detailed medical history and talking to you and others about your symptoms
  • a thorough examination, including testing your senses and movements
  • blood and urine tests to check no other illnesses are causing your symptoms
  • neuropsychological testing to assess problems with understanding and judgement
  • scans like a chest x-ray, ECG, or CT scan
  • assessment to rule out mental illnesses like depression
  • a mental status test to check your memory, reading, writing and calculation

Referral

Your doctor may refer you to a specialist to help with the diagnosis. For example, you may be referred to a:

  • clinical psychologist — a healthcare professional who specialises in the assessment and treatment of mental health conditions
  • psychiatrist — a qualified medical doctor who has further training in treating mental health conditions
  • neurologist — a specialist in treating conditions that affect the nervous system (the brain, spinal cord and nerves)

Similar conditions

Alzheimer's disease can be a difficult condition to diagnose because the symptoms can be similar to those of other health conditions. For example, the dementia-like symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can be caused by:

  • nutritional deficiencies — for example where there is not enough of one of the vitamins that your body needs to function
  • hormone disorders
  • an infection
  • a brain tumour — a growth of cells in your brain
  • stroke
  • depression or anxiety

Just diagnosed

Alzheimer's disease is a physical disease and not a mental disorder.

It may take several appointments with your doctor or specialists before a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can be confirmed.

If you are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, your doctor may recommend that the diagnosis is shared with your family or your carers. However, this will only be done with your permission.

Options for Alzheimer's disease treatment include medicines that, in some cases, may help delay the development of the disease.

The healthcare professionals who are treating you will also aim to keep you living as independently as possible, by identifying areas where you may need some assistance. This may involve assessing whether you:

  • can drive safely
  • can wash, dress and feed yourself
  • have a support network, such as family and friends
  • need any financial assistance

Dementia Australia operates a National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. Their website www.dementia.org.au offers information on all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

Last reviewed: March 2019

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Alzheimers disease

Alzheimers disease is a form of dementia.

Read more on WA Health website

Brain Foundation | Alzheimers Disease

Alzheimers Disease Alzheimers Disease Description Alzheimer's Disease is a form of dementia a neurodegenerative disease that damages the brain's intellectual functions (memory, orientation, calculation, etc

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Alzheimer's disease - myDr.com.au

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Find out all you need to know, including what causes it and whether it can be prevented.

Read more on myDr website

Alzheimer's disease (dementia, memory loss) information | myVMC

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia. It is characteised by progressive memory loss and disturbances in other mental functions.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Dementia (Alzheimer's disease) carers' information video | myVMC

Caring for people with dementia or Alzheimer's disease is challenging. This video presents practical strategies for caring for Alzheimer's carers.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Dementia (Alzheimer's disease) information video | myVMC

Living with dementia and providing dementia care can be difficult. Watch tips and advice from doctors and people with Alzheimers disease in this video.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Preventing dementia (Alzheimer's disease) video information | myVMC

Dementia or Alzheimer's disease may be prevented with blood pressure lowering therapies (antihypertension treatment) and other heart health measures.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Dementia Australia | Down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease

Research has established a link between Down syndrome and Alzheimers disease. This page explains what is currently known about this link, and discusses the diagnosis of Alzheimers disease in people with Down syndrome and some information about where to find additional support.

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Alzheimer's disease | Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Get the facts on Alzheimers disease, and Garvan's research focus. We look at the signalling pathways regulating neuroplasticity, and harnessing the brains own adult stem cells. Alzheimers is a degenerative condition of the brain characterised by memory loss and reduced cognitive function.

Read more on Garvan Institute of Medical Research website

Alzheimer's disease - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo