Dementia is one of the most complicated conditions one can experience. Not only are there various types and degrees of dementia, but there are many conditions that appear as dementia, though they aren’t. For this reason, a clear diagnosis is crucial for treating these conditions and managing symptoms. In this piece, we’re going to look at the types of doctors most likely to diagnose dementia and how they come to their diagnostic conclusions.
1. Your Loved One’s Primary Care Physician
A primary care physician is a gateway to additional care for most individuals — and those displaying symptoms of dementia are no exception. Though a primary care physician may not specialize in neurological conditions, they can still diagnose many conditions that may present themselves as dementia. For example, a primary care physician may be able to diagnose hearing and vision problems that can cause confusion that resembles dementia. PCPs may also be able to run blood tests to identify other conditions or spot adverse reactions to medications or even allergic reactions. While a PCP can do quite a bit, it is very rare that a dementia patient’s care will be limited to the care of a primary care physician.
When a primary care physician deems it necessary, they will likely refer your loved one to a neurologist.
2. A Neurologist
The most common specialist responsible for diagnosing and prescribing care for dementia will be a neurologist. As specialists in the brain and cognitive function, a neurologist will delve much deeper than a primary care physician for a more accurate diagnosis. A neurologist may conduct physical examinations, run blood work, or conduct scans of the brain. These cognitive specialists may prescribe certain medications to treat conditions and the like.
If a neurologist is unable to accurately diagnose a particular type or degree of dementia, they may refer the patient to the care of a neuropsychologist.
3. A Neuropsychologist
Combining the expertise of a neurologist and a psychologist, a neuropsychologist specializes in diagnosing and treating psychological issues rooted in neurological disfunction. They often perform in-depth investigations into the type and degree of dementia by conducting interviews, asking patients to draw objects or symbols, repeat specific statements, and the like. Many of the tests utilized by neuropsychologists are not widely publicized in order to maintain the tests’ integrity and keep diagnoses accurate.
The process of diagnosis can be immensely confusing for patients and stressful for loved ones, but with the right specialists, your loved one can receive the professional and compassionate care they deserve.
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