Dementia is a general term used to describe thinking and memory issues severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Others conditions can cause dementia as well, such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI), Lewy body disease and stroke.
Sometimes, memory changes are treatable or reversible. These dementia-like symptoms may be related to depression, drug effects, sleep apnea, thyroid issues and other medical problems. Being able to treat or reverse such conditions is one of the primary reasons an early diagnosis is so important.
Getting a timely and accurate diagnosis is important because:
- The symptoms might be reversible or treatable
- Certain treatments are more effective when started early
- Some dementia conditions may not get worse. Having that information may decrease anxiety
- Understanding the type of changes going on with a dementia condition can help avoid other medical issues
- Early diagnosis allows the person and their family to educate themselves, seek support that works for them, and make informed decisions and plans
- Early diagnosis allows the person and their family to focus on quality of life and pursuing their wishes
What to do if you’re concerned about memory loss
If you have concerns about memory loss, thinking skills, or behavioral changes in yourself or a loved one, an important first step is to contact your primary care provider or a nearby memory clinic for an evaluation.
The WAI-Affiliated Dementia Diagnostic Clinic Network includes affiliated memory clinics throughout Wisconsin. Find a clinic near you.
You can also download the clinic network brochure. Find information about the network, what to expect at a memory clinic visit, and more.
WAI director Cynthia Carlsson, MD, MS, explains the importance of an early diagnosis on the Dementia Matters podcast.