What types of dementia are there?  Signs and symptoms to see your doctor about

What types of dementia are there? Signs and symptoms to see your doctor about

While it can be daunting, it is always best to see your doctor about possible dementia symptoms. (Getty Images)

Knowing when you might have symptoms of dementia can help you get the diagnosis and care you need.

Unfortunately, the misconception about memory loss as a sign of normal aging is the biggest barrier to people going to see their GP about the possibility of developing this condition, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This has resulted in one in four people experiencing symptoms for more than two years before being diagnosed.

To help combat this during their dementia workweek, the charity sends out a message: “This isn’t called getting old, it’s called disease.”

With diagnosis rates at a five-year low, she wants to “encourage those who may have undiagnosed dementia to come to us for guidance, support, and feel empowered to take the next step.”

While it’s understandable that some may want to put off getting a diagnosis out of fear, the association believes it’s best to know, along with 91% of people with dementia.

What is dementia?

(Alzheimer's Association)

Don’t mistake the signs of dementia just as signs of aging. (Alzheimer’s Association)

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) linked to the ongoing deterioration in brain function, according to the NHS. There are many different types, with many different causes, and they are not A normal part of aging.

For example, Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are two different types, and both make up the majority of cases. Other types include frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy body (DLB), early dementia, as well as mixed dementia (more than one dementia at the same time), and more.

It can affect memory, as well as the way you talk, think, feel and act.

There are currently around 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and it is expected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It will be developed by about 209,600 people this year, which equates to one every three minutes.

The condition mainly affects older adults, with a chance of doubling every five years after the age of 65. However, it can also affect younger adults as well.

In addition to misconceptions about amnesia symptoms, times of refusal and referral have also been barriers for people to get help, which is why providing knowledge about the condition can increase people’s chances of not only being diagnosed, but the care they need.

Read more: A study reveals that these are the key contracts to getting fit if you want to stave off dementia

Alzheimer’s disease

Mature woman looking out the window in alone

Alzheimer’s disease can make you feel confused or lost in a familiar place. (Getty Images)

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the UK. It is a progressive condition, meaning that symptoms develop gradually over many years, and slowly become more severe.

The exact cause is not yet understood, although factors that likely increase your risk include age, family history, untreated depression, and lifestyle factors associated with cardiovascular disease.

The first sign is usually minor memory problems, such as forgetting recent conversations or events, or forgetting names of places and things.

As the condition progresses and symptoms become more severe, as reported by the NHS, these include:

  • Confusion, confusion, and getting lost in familiar places

  • Difficulty planning or making decisions

  • Speech and language problems

  • Problems moving around without help or performing self-care tasks

  • Personality changes, such as becoming aggressive and demanding and suspicious of others

  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) and delusions (believing things that are not true)

  • low mood or anxiety

Read more: Daily brisk walking or cycling ‘may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease for older adults’

Vascular dementia

Vascular dementia can make you feel confused.  (Getty Images)

Vascular dementia can make you feel confused. (Getty Images)

Vascular dementia is a common type of syndrome, caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, which often gets worse over time — although it can sometimes be transplanted. It can start suddenly or start slowly over time.

Symptoms listed by the NHS include:

  • slow to think

  • Difficulty planning and understanding

  • Concentrating problems

  • Changes in your mood, personality, or behavior

  • Feeling confused and disoriented

  • Difficulty walking and maintaining balance

  • Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, such as memory and language problems (many people with vascular dementia also have Alzheimer’s disease

This can make daily life increasingly difficult for a person with this condition, and ultimately prevent them from being able to take care of themselves.

Read more: Postpartum depression in males: signs and symptoms of the condition

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB)

Thoughtful old woman relaxing on the bed.  Elderly woman relaxing at home.  A woman takes a nap on the sofa, relaxed, head tilted back on pillow, eyes closed

DLB can make you sleepy or disturb your sleep. (Getty Images)

DLB, also known as Lewy body dementia, is another common type of dementia. It results from Lewy bodies, which are clumps of protein that appear in the brain’s nerve cells. Because it shares symptoms with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, it is often misdiagnosed.

Symptoms listed by the NHS include

  • hallucinations Seeing, hearing, or smelling things that are not there

  • Problems with understanding, thinking, memory and judgment This is similar to Alzheimer’s disease, although memory may be less affected in people with dementia with Lewy bodies.

  • confusion or drowsiness This can change within minutes or hours

  • slow movement, stiff limbs, tremor (uncontrollable shaking)

  • Restless sleep, often with violent movements and screaming

  • Fainting spells, unsteadiness, and falls

Frontotemporal dementia

Lonely man inspecting dungeon on the sofa

Frontotemporal dementia can affect your motivation. (Getty Images)

In general, frontotemporal dementia is an uncommon type of dementia. However, more specifically, while it occurs less frequently in the elderly, it is the third most common type in people under the age of 65, according to Dementia UK.

It affects the front and sides of the brain and causes problems with behavior and language. Similar to other types of dementia, it usually develops slowly and gets progressively worse over a long period of time.

Symptoms listed by the NHS include:

  • Personality and behavior changes Acting inappropriately or impulsively, appearing selfish or unsympathetic, neglecting personal hygiene, overeating, or losing motivation

  • Language problems Speaking slowly, struggling to make the correct sounds when saying a word, getting the words in the wrong order, or using words incorrectly

  • Mental ability problems Easily distracted, struggle with planning and organizing

  • memory problems These symptoms tend to occur only later, unlike more common forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease

In addition to mental symptoms, there may be physical symptoms as well, such as slow or heavy movements, loss of bladder or bowel control, muscle weakness or difficulty swallowing. Frontotemporal dementia can also result in a person’s inability to take care of themselves.

Read more: Brain tumor signs and symptoms

early dementia

An African-American woman and her doctor are inside a medical clinic.  The woman is sitting and describes her symptoms to the doctor.

Young people should feel they can see a doctor for possible dementia symptoms, too. (Getty Images)

Early-onset dementia is defined as someone who develops this condition before age 65 (the usual retirement age) with more than 42,000 people living with them in the UK.

Younger people with dementia may also have a wide range of symptoms, with the general condition being caused by a range of different diseases. However, the support they need may be different, as it may affect them in different ways.

As listed by the Alzheimer’s Association, these include:

  • A wide range of diseases cause early dementia.

  • A younger person is more likely to develop a rare form of dementia.

  • Younger people with dementia are less likely to have memory loss as one of their first symptoms.

  • Dementia that starts early is more likely to cause problems with movement, walking, coordination or balance.

  • Dementia in young children is more likely to be genetic (transmitted through genes) – this affects up to 10% of young people with dementia.

  • Many young people with dementia do not have any serious or long-term health conditions.

Younger people with dementia may also have concerns about how it will affect their families, relationships, finances, daily lives or risks to children in the future.

Read more: Are you at risk of burnout? Signs, symptoms and how to deal with them

When you see a GP

While it's important to see a doctor about your symptoms, some lifestyle changes can also help reduce your risk of experiencing them in the first place.  (Alzheimer's Association)

While it’s important to see a doctor about your symptoms, some lifestyle changes can also help reduce your risk of experiencing them in the first place. (Alzheimer’s Association)

It’s normal for memory to be affected by stress, fatigue, certain illnesses, and medications, but if you become more forgetful (or have other signs of dementia), especially if you’re over 65, it’s important to talk to a GP about it.

To distinguish normal amnesia from memory loss that may be cause for concern, ask if it is affecting your daily life. If it is concerning to you or someone you know, do not delay in seeking advice.

The Alzheimer’s Association urges anyone concerned about themselves or anyone who would love to take the first step and contact the charity for support. Support and more information about diagnosis is just a phone call or a click away. Visit alzheimers.org.uk/memoryloss or call 0333150 3456.

You can also use the Alzheimer’s Association’s Possible Symptoms Checklist to help make a medical appointment.

Watch: The 10-year plan to treat dementia will focus on prevention, says the Minister of Health

2022-05-18 19:15:59

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