Dr Hilary issues warning about missed dementia diagnoses
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Dementia is a devastating disease that affects the brain and causes a range of physical and mental symptoms. With 200 recognised subtypes of dementia, more than 850,000 people in the UK are estimated to live with one form of the condition.
Statistics from the NHS show one in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia, with the condition affecting one in six people over the age of 80.
There are five more common types of dementia and these are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia.
The condition can also affect people under the age of 65, with approximately 42,000 people in the UK living with young onset dementia according to Dementia UK.
So what exactly is dementia and what causes it?
Read More: Alzheimer’s disease: The warning sign in your eyes
The brain contains a wealth of nerve cells, which help the body perform daily tasks by sending messages to one another.
Dementia damages the nerve cells in the brain, which means they are unable to communicate with one another.
This leads to the body being unable to perform everyday tasks, and often not functioning properly.
However, the disease affects everyone differently, with different parts of the brain affected more than others.
By 2025, Dementia UK reports more than one million people will be living with dementia in the UK.
Although the early signs vary, common early symptoms of dementia include:
- memory problems, particularly remembering recent events
- increasing confusion
- reduced concentration
- personality or behaviour changes
- apathy and withdrawal or depression
- loss of ability to do everyday tasks
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If you have any concerns about the above symptoms, contact your GP and arrange an appointment.
Equally, if you notice any of the above symptoms in a family member or friend, talk to them about making a doctor’s appointment.
Speaking to your doctor if you are concerned can help immensely with early diagnosis, or ruling out other sinister conditions.
There are other conditions that can cause dementia-like symptoms, such as depression, B-12 deficiency and even an infection.
During a test for dementia the GP will ask you to outline symptoms and how they start, and order blood tests and potentially a brain scan.
The GP may also ask some questions to test cognitive ability such as
- state what day, date and year it is
- name some common items, from pictures, or as answers to questions
- remember and repeat items to test concentration and short term memory
- complete a drawing
10 warning signs of dementia
This warning list is from Dementia UK.
The charity advises going through the following checklist of the common symptoms of dementia, and if the person affected has several of these signs, consult a doctor for a complete assessment.
1. .Dementia and memory loss
It’s normal to occasionally forget appointments and remember them later.
A person with dementia may forget things more often or not remember them at all.
2. Dementia and difficulty with tasks
People can get distracted and they may forget to serve part of a meal.
A person with dementia may have trouble with all the steps involved in preparing a meal.
3. Dementia and disorientation
A person with dementia may have difficulty finding their way to a familiar place or feel confused about where they are, or think they are back in some past time of their life.
4. Dementia and language problems
Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with dementia may forget simple words or substitute inappropriate words, making sentences difficult to understand. They may also have trouble understanding others.
5. Dementia and changes in abstract thinking
Managing finances can be difficult for anyone, but a person with dementia may have trouble knowing what the numbers mean or what to do with them.
6. Dementia and poor judgement
Many activities require good judgement. When this ability is affected by dementia, the person may have difficulty making appropriate decisions, such as what to wear in cold weather.
7. Dementia and poor spatial skills
A person with dementia may have difficulty judging distance or direction when driving a car.
8. Dementia and misplacing things
Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with dementia may not know what the keys are for.
9. Dementia and mood, personality or behaviour changes
Everyone becomes sad or moody from time to time. Someone with dementia can have rapid mood swings, for no apparent reason.
They can become confused, suspicious or withdrawn. Some can become disinhibited or more outgoing.
10. Dementia and loss of initiative
It is normal to tire of some activities.
Dementia may cause a person to lose interest in previously enjoyed activities or require cues prompting them to become involved.
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