How Alzheimer’s Disease Is Diagnosed

Once you or your loved one notices symptoms that may be Alzheimer’s, make an appointment with a doctor to discuss these concerns. The diagnosis process usually begins with a family doctor, typically a primary care doctor or general practitioner. They may then refer you or your loved one to other doctors who specialize in memory, brain function, or older adults for more testing and lab work. Keep in mind that it may take multiple appointments and several tests to get a diagnosis, but you can continue to see your primary care doctor throughout the process.

Your Medical Team and the Tests They May Perform to Diagnose Alzheimer’s

Primary Care Physician

(General Practitioner)

  • Medical & Family Histories
  • Cognitive Tests (tests for problem-solving, memory, and reasoning)
  • Routine Laboratory Tests
  • Brain Imaging Tests (MRI, CT)



  • Advanced Laboratory Tests
  • Brain Imaging Tests (PET)

Tests That Help Support an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Medical & Family Histories

Medical & Family Histories

The doctor may seek to understand your or your loved one’s family, medical, and psychiatric history and changes in thinking and behavior. The doctor may also talk with loved ones to discuss changes in the thinking and behavior of the person who is being tested.

Cognitive Tests

Cognitive Tests

A range of tests based on problem-solving, memory, and other brain functions.

Standard Laboratory Tests

Routine Laboratory Tests

Blood and urine samples may be collected to identify whether there are other causes for the symptoms other than Alzheimer’s.

Brain Imaging Tests

Brain Imaging Tests

These may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), and positron emission tomography (PET) scans of the brain. MRI and CT scans are typically used to rule out other disorders with symptoms that are similar to Alzheimer's. PET scans are used to determine if there are high levels of beta-amyloid in the brain, which would point to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Advanced Laboratory Tests

Advanced Laboratory Tests

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tests and other blood tests may be used to check levels of beta-amyloid and tau proteins. These tests are used to determine the likelihood that the symptoms are due to Alzheimer's.

What to Know About Getting Diagnosed

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. However, some people may have brain changes from another cause of dementia. Although a doctor may be able to diagnose dementia, they may not know the exact cause. What’s important is that you or your loved one receive a doctor’s evaluation to determine next steps.

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Learn the difference between dementia, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and Alzheimer's, and how Alzheimer's affects the brain.